My time sitting down with a B-Movie this Christmas was met by the revelation that No Escape is within touching distance of A-Movie ranking. It’s story is definitely B division but it’s execution, sheer balls out action, great cast and all out scope bring it climbing up the table looking for promotion.
Shackled and chained inside a prison bus on route to the fancy new futuristic, level 6 penitentiary was John Robbins (Ray Liotta). A highly trained Marine serving life imprisonment. He’d shot his commanding officer straight in the forehead just as he was about to be awarded a medal for bravery. Was he deranged? Every prison thought so. John fought every order with contempt and defiance. Forever looking for a way to escape his captivity. Twice from two level 5 slammers. There wouldn’t be a next time. Level 6 was the highest level maximum security prison. It was run by a sadistic Warden (Michael Lerner) who ruled with an electric cattle prod.
Tagline – The year is 2022. In the prison of the future escape is impossible. Survival isn’t much easier..
John Robbins is plagued by disturbing visions. Screams and cries from figures engulfed in burning flames. Haunted by acts unknown but so deeply devastating. Clearly traumatised by these horrifying events. It plainly reveals what motivated his action to terminate his commanding officer in such a drastic way. John has little care for himself other than escaping. Keeps him motivated. Whilst getting up to his old, not complying to the rules tricks again, John manages to put the warden into even more of a vicious mood. There was only one place for John to go. Absolom! Forget level 6, Absolom was a secret small island where the most ruthless and harden prisoners were sent. A place more feared and dreaded than the prison itself! This island was off the radar. Patrolled by fully armed helicopters. Run by the bloodthirsty prisoners themselves.
This now becomes the part in the film you start realising that there’s at least five or six movies chopped about and fitted together. The beginning prison scenes have a nod to Christopher Lambert’s Fortress. There’s some Kurt Russell’s Soldier in there (I know that came much later). However it’s when John arrives in Absolom that you start thinking, hey on we on Endor? This resembles the Ewok’s coming out the woods, all savage and barbaric. Unfortunately they don’t turn all cute and cuddly like our furry Star Wars friends. It now turns all Apocalypse Now populated by the bastard offspring between the cast of Mad Max and Apocalypto. This bunch are psychopaths, murderers, predators and possibly cannibals!
Absolom’s ferocious village camp is run by Walter Marek (Stuart Wilson). Marek can only be described as doing his best Sheriff of Nottingham Alan Rickman impersonation. A dreadlocked sheriff who would cut your heart out with a spoon if he had one. “Because it’s DULL, you twit. It’ll hurt more“. No doubt the kitchen utensils have been sharpened down into shanks and other stabbing devices. Besides he has no real need for spoons when he has a small thermal nuke rocket launcher. It gives him the power keeping all the rampaging savages under control. He turns to the camera…. “I had a very sad childhood, I’ll tell you about it sometime. I never knew my parents, it’s amazing I’m sane.“
John keeps to his usual rogue, non-compliant form and rightly pisses off our super villain, Marek. “That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.” Marek unleashes his mad dog gang of beasts to chase down this insolent fool. A crazed manhunt through the woods. John becomes cornered. Trapped by the barbarians and the sheer drop over a cliff to the sea. Death awaits for sure?……….
Of course not.
It would be a short film if that was the case. Besides John’s our hero and how else can I introduce the rest of the cast without him. He’s saved by another village! These are known as The Insiders. But wait these men aren’t the brutal savages like The Outsiders he’d just encountered. This bunch seemed almost civilised. John didn’t trust them. Something wasn’t right! Why were they helping him rather than punching holes into him? This place was run by The Father (Lance Henriksen) aka Bishop from Aliens. A former doctor accused of murder. He repented his sins by building this camp for peace and letting the men live out their remaining years of life away from the brutal dictatorship they had escaped from. Each man looking after the other. It worked but it came at a cost. The Outsiders outnumbered them by many. They would rampage and raid there camp for supplies, bringing death and destruction with them.
The Insiders camp features all the recognisable faces. Well all apart from The Fathers bodyguard Skull (Cheuk-Fai Chan) who’s kung fu skills are pure bad-ass. Second in command goes to Hawkins (Ernie Hudson) aka Winston from Ghostbusters. Then there’s Johnny Drama from Entourage and Matt Dillon’s brother playing the young and innocent Casey (Kevin Dillon). We got a wheeler and dealer in Stephano (Kevin J O’Conner) who you will know from The Mummy and Deep Rising. You gotta have a brain spasm inducing moonshine guy? Step forward Killian (Don Henderson) General Tagge and Chief of the Imperial Army in Star Wars A New Hope. There’s the familiar face of Ian McNeice who plays the mayor like King. He’s been in many British TV shows and even portrayed Winston Churchill in Doctor Who. Which leads us to Yorkshireman Jack Shepherd who plays Dysart the engineer of the group. He’s been all over the telly and possibly is most famous for playing Detective Superintendent Charles Wycliffe.
So will John Robbins stay to help The Insiders fight against the maundering evil thugs of The Outsiders?………
Of course he does.
Tagline – Welcome to the future at it’s most primitive. This is a prison with just one rule: Survival of the Fittest.
No Escape (1994) also known as Escape From Absolom is directed by New Zealand born and UK based filmmaker Martin Campbell. Who would start his directing career making a few British sex comedy films in the early 70s to making two massive Bond films with two different actors. Golden Eye (1995) with Pierce Brosnan and Casino Royale (2006) with Daniel Craig. He’s made some big films with The Mask of Zorro (1998) and its sequel. There was also Vertical Limit (2000) and The Foreigner (2017) with Jackie Chan in a rare serious role. Incidentally I just watched his brilliant directed 80s TV series Edge of Darkness (1985) and his rubbish remake of it with Mel Gibson in Edge of Darkness (2010). So if we push the Mel film to the side it’s no wonder why No Escape is an excellent well made action film.
Ray Liotta plays the action hero well. He fits into the tough role with ease and you are rooting for him right from the get go. Shame he didn’t get many more action hero parts like this one. It’s full on nonstop action. With a two hour runtime you get a lot for your money. There’s at least three finale endings where you think it’s gonna end but no you only halfway through. The film is filled with hundreds of extras all made up in apocalyptic warrior outfits and what looks like gingerbread hats with shells on for the Insiders! The set pieces are on a grand scale. The Outsiders lair looks like an old derelict overgrown tourist holiday park with rundown swimming pool. The Insiders circled encampment is miles of wooden sticks and logs covered in spears and spikes. With grand wooden huts and gangways stretching out across the camp. Must of taken days to build and then they smash it all up a couple of times.
PS OH and before I forget a special award goes to the stunt man! Probably one of the craziest burning man stunts I’ve ever seen. The guys on fire for like two minutes, slides head first down a wooden ladder screaming, as you would. Then runs about before being kicked out of a door. It was quite something.
You know what? I’m gonna give it a very strong 7 out of ten. A well spent two hours with my feet up and a few beers flowing. I had a lot of fun with it and totally surprised I hadn’t seen it before. Anyone else enjoy this one?
Thanks for stopping on by Wolfman’s Cult Film.
Wishing you all the best for the new year of 2021.