Risking life and limb by way of bikes, trikes, buses, motorcycles and semis—these are the things of Nitro Circus, and therefore this movie.
Led by Travis Pastrana, Nitro Circus got its start back in the early 2000s when a collective of extreme sport buds started cranking out DVDs of their backflipping, tumbling, face-in-the-dirt engine-propelled stunts. That led to a TV miniseries, an MTV show, a live road tour and now the big screen. In the film's brief interviews and in-the-moment conversations, these madcap guys and one hard-core gal pal present themselves as average Joes and Janes who were already into dirt bike backflips and simply decided to capitalize on their "fun" by marketing it. But it's clear that they'd be happy to be thought of as the spiritual successors to one Evel Knievel—the motorcycle daredevil from days gone by who earned shticky notoriety for his "death-defying" leaps over lines of buses and sprawling canyons.
In one of the many pieced-in quirky asides, Pastrana tells us that Nitro is all about "trying to find where it's not possible to go … and then going there." And so he and his gang present a series of gleeful insanities that ranges from leaping the gap between 63-story buildings with a tricycle to truly deadly looking car tumbles staged at 130 mph. It's all designed to show the performers' extreme skills while hopefully getting viewers fired up … while they groan, wince and shout.
Pastrana starts this not-quite-a-documentary with a brief word about "not trying this at home." And—insert asterisk here—it's obvious that this crew of friends care for one another. (Read "Other Negative Elements" for info on that asterisk.)
A badly bruised guy pulls up his shirt and pulls down his shorts a bit to reveal a large and painful-looking wound he calls the result of "God's fist."
Jolene wears a bikini top on occasion and shows some of her backside. One of the Nitro guys is shown riding a bike naked. (His backside is blurred.) Another dresses in drag for a gag.
These backslapping chortlers readily leap into one hair-raising act of self-inflicted agony after another. Some thumping crashes are as simple as a guy earning repeated dirt pile body slams while trying to achieve a twelve foot-high double backflip on a Big Wheels tricycle or having a motorbike flip backwards and land on his chest.
Other scenes are more severe. One guy tries to skim across a hotel pool with his speeding dirt bike, only to have it sink and send him flying into the ledge of the concrete pool wall. Another presents somebody dislocating a shoulder while falling over the handle bars of a crashing quad. A wheelchair-bound guy tries to shoot around a full-loop ramp only to crash to the ground mid-loop, knocking him unconscious.
One dense dude is dragged over a water slide at 60 mph and ends up literally burning the skin off his chest. Someone hits a ramp at 130 mph, sending his car into a sheet metal shredding tumble. Somebody else is crunched and broken when trapped under the collapsing roof of a poorly flipped Mustang—thereafter getting cut out of the crumpled vehicle and rushed to the hospital with undescribed injuries. Many heads—protected and unprotected—thump many different surfaces.
And that's only a fraction of the crumbled cars, bikes, semitrucks and quads that fill the scores of dangerously insane stunts—many ending with piles of pain.
Crude or Profane Language
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 bleeped f-words, along with exclamations of "eff" and "effing." One guy is called a "mo-fo." Most of the s-words are bleeped; one or two aren't. We hear a dozen or more total uses of "b‑‑tard," "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑" and "d‑‑n."
Everybody's very concerned about not being a "p‑‑‑y." References are made to someone having the "balls" for a stunt—including Jolene. Chortling name-calling includes "d‑‑kface" and "dumba‑‑." There's jovial talk of people "crapping their shorts." God's name is abused a handful of times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
One guy drinks what is called homemade moonshine. Another downs Red Bull (as if these guys need any help at all with getting wound up).
Other Negative Elements
The care these chums share never prompts anyone to raise a hand to stop someone from doing something that they themselves might privately recognize as pretty dumb or deadly. Instead, they're endlessly chuckling over another's crazy bravado.
Without question, some of this movie's stunts are jaw-droppingly stunning. The pic opens, for instance, with a truly amazing ballet of airborne motorcycles, 4x4s and monster trucks all jumping, flipping and cartwheeling over and past one another in a slo-mo dirt-ramp leaping spectacle. Moments like this help you realize the precision and true skills that must go into one of these high-revving events.
But most of the flick is far from that graceful. While talking about the Nitro crew's adrenalized adventures, one of the commentators notes, "They only think about making [their stunts.] They never think about what will happen if they don't." Even the repeatedly mentioned Evel Knievel was more recognizable for his crashes, comas and hundreds of broken bones than his pinpoint landings, of course. And that's certainly a part of the action here, too.
The problem, though, is that the movie makes even those painful moments seem extremely cool. Especially as the braying mates backslap and cheer fallen and limping comrades. Pastrana drives the point home early on with the statement, "Our mission is to have more fun than anybody on the planet." And indeed, their every YouTube-worthy flip, somersault and face-first crash seems to scream, "Ain't this the bomb?"
Unfortunately, for far too many inspired kids, it might be a bomb going off in their faces. While searching for videos of Pastrana and his crew on the aforementioned YouTube, I happened upon a number of non-Pastrana vids that showed kids trying similar stunts, wiping out and being shuttled off to the hospital. Accidents from these kinds of stunts can easily result in head trauma, massive bruises, broken bones … and death.
Never mind that Pastrana warns kids at home not to try the stunts they're performing. The cool factor here far outweighs the common sense factor.