Bearing a 1994 copyright, this rainsoaked misfit seeped onto home video four years later, after premiering on The Movie Channel.
At a prison work detail in Louisiana, one convict has had enough of sadistic chief guard Hickman (Colm Feore). The prisoner runs, and Hickman happily shoots him dead, but in the confusion a second man, Charles Clayton (Patrick Dempsey), sees his chance and bolts as well, killing a guard to hijack
the prison bus. Hickman initiates a dragnet, but Clayton hops a train and winds up in part of the Mississippi delta pounded by torrential rains. The fugitive shelters in a vacant cabin and rescues nubile cellist Sarah (Brigitte Bako) after her car goes into the adjacent river. When Clayton
forcibly restrains Sarah from signaling an evacuation helicopter, the girl figures out her savior is a shady type, but she doesn't realize his true nature, until he speaks about his humble origins as the bastard son of a footloose jazzman, and his plan to open a nightclub devoted to spoken-word
performances. Back in prison Clayton's literary side is commemorated by respectful inmates in a lifer poetry-writing program, presided over by volunteer scholar Duncan Long (W. Morgan Sheppard). Finally Clayton tells the whole truth to Sarah, including the crime that put him away--murdering two
drug thugs who turned on him in a dope deal. Still, Sarah makes blissful love to the convict, but in the morning he steals away as she still sleeps. Troopers corner Clayton at a dam, and a sympathetic sheriff brings Sarah to talk her lover into a peaceful surrender. But vengeful Hickman descends
via helicopter, spouting Clayton's poetry while gunning for the escapee. A wounded Clayton takes a suicidal plunge into the reservoir. Dying, he envisions Sarah in his nightclub, "The Cage."
After a breathless opening and situations that strongly echo THE FUGITIVE (1993), THE ESCAPE can be granted some minor points for not going the predictable, derivative action-adventure route. Alas, what it does mutate into is an unworkable melodrama of jazz, jail, poetry, passion, and
precipitation in profusion, the latter all the better to show off ingenue Bako as the ideal foul-weather fantasy date, wetted to the skin in skimpy clothing. It's a bit of a surprise to learn that Dempsey's character is indeed guilty of something (99 per cent of Hollywood convicts having been
framed, of course, and the worse their sentences the more innocent they are), but the way the script canonizes its hard-timer hero as a genius poet, cellblock Gandhi and, ultimately, romantic martyr seems more than a little patronizing and heavy-handed. A dearth of Louisiana accents confirms THE
ESCAPE's origins, shot entirely in British Columbia. The film acknowledges the cooperation of the State of California Prison Writing Program, and the script borrows lockup verses from Breeze Todd Allan Drange, Ef Jackson, John Thomas, and John Clare. (Violence, nudity, sexual situations, adultsituations, extreme profanity, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Bearing a 1994 copyright, this rainsoaked misfit seeped onto home video four years later, after premiering on The Movie Channel. At a prison work detail in Louisiana, one convict has had enough of sadistic chief guard Hickman (Colm Feore). The prisoner ru… (more)