An action/adventure film with political pretensions, NO ESCAPE is a futuristic PAPILLON in ROAD WARRIOR drag. Despite a better than average cast, NO ESCAPE is a less entertaining film than, say, 1993's less ambitious FORTRESS.
In the year 2022, when corporations control the prison system, military killer John Robbins (Ray Liotta) is sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his commanding officer (we later learn the officer commanded Robbins to take part in a civilian massacre). "Death is the only way out," chirps
the warden (Michael Lerner) by way of welcome, and it quickly becomes apparent that the prisons of the future are just as bad as today's prisons, only more high-tech. The defiant Robbins fails to adjust, and earns the ultimate punishment: he's dumped on the isolated island of Absalom, populated by
the hardest core of the hard-core inmates, and left to fend for himself.
Robbins's first experience of his fellow castaways is predictably negative. A pack of pierced, dreadlocked, ROAD WARRIOR-outfitted savages, led by the preening, bullying Marek (Stuart Wilson), hunt him down, torture him, and finally, when he escapes their clutches, chase him off a cliff. But
Robbins survives the fall into the ocean, and is taken in by an altogether different group of exiles. They call themselves The Insiders--the savages in the jungle are, naturally, The Outsiders--and, led by a wise and compassionate man they call The Father (Lance Henriksen), they've built a
self-sustaining village and set up a system of democratic government that would be the envy of many a more technically developed community. Their days are spent farming, building, fishing, and repelling the Outsiders, who want what they've got. The Insiders invite Robbins to join them; he's
reluctant to make a commitment, and they let him stay anyway. Callow Casey (Kevin Dillon) idolizes Robbins, The Father clearly has something in mind for him, and the rest of The Insiders put up with him.
NO ESCAPE devolves into a series of action sequences in which Outsiders attack and Insiders fight them off, punctuated by scenes in which Robbins searches his soul, particularly after The Father, who's suffering from some unspecified illness, reveals that he wants Robbins to take his place.
Although he keeps insisting that he won't, Robbins repeatedly helps out The Insiders, and the film ends with The Outsiders roundly defeated--in a sequence that lifts liberally, though not particularly effectively, from THE SEVEN SAMURAI--and Robbins planning his escape from Absalom.
NO ESCAPE is a hairy macho action picture leavened with painfully correct social and political bromides. Prison is dehumanizing. The military shouldn't tolerate acts of violence against unarmed women and children. Killing leads to more killing. Torture is bad. Co-operation is good. And so on.
The battle between civilization and the brutal pursuit of animalistic lusts is delineated in the most schematic form possible, but rather than giving NO ESCAPE the air of a fable or a myth for the ages, this only makes it seem simple-minded.
Ray Liotta does little to live up to the striking figure he cut in Jonathan Demme's SOMETHING WILD, though Robbins is so shallow a character it's hard to blame him. As The Father, Lance Henriksen (PUMPKINHEAD, ALIENS) radiates mellow sincerity that begs to be subverted by some hint of the
selfish, the fanatical, or the misguided, but never is. The rest of the good guys blend into a harmonious mass, while the bad guys seem to exist solely to model the latest in post-apocalyptic future fashions.
Based on the novel The Penal Colony (no, not the one by Kafka) and directed by Martin Campbell, director of better than average thrillers like CRIMINAL LAW and DEFENSELESS, NO ESCAPE looks like an action/adventure movie without ever feeling like one. Campbell seems to have no sense of the
visceral, testosterone-driven demands of the genre, and NO ESCAPE suffers tremendously for his unfamiliarity. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: An action/adventure film with political pretensions, NO ESCAPE is a futuristic PAPILLON in ROAD WARRIOR drag. Despite a better than average cast, NO ESCAPE is a less entertaining film than, say, 1993's less ambitious FORTRESS. In the year 2022, when cor… (more)
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