Ambitious for a direct-to-video action pic, NO ESCAPE NO RETURN is burdened with drab cinematography and deficient sound recording. It nevertheless emerges as passable macho escapism about the teamwork of three renegade cops.
In the middle of an escalating drug war, corrupt DEA official Dante (Michael Nouri) formulates a plan that will later draw the scrutiny of Internal Affairs honcho James Mitchell (John Saxon). Dante selects three loose cannons--martial artist Johnny Cuff (Dustin Nguyen), demolition expert Billy
Sloan (Maxwell Caulfield), and legal whiz Ali Weston (Denise Loveday)--for an assignment better suited to less volatile personalities. Ordered to stay cool, the veteran cops must infiltrate a dance club fronting for a drug distribution center. Dante is secretly in the pocket of crimelord Malcolm
(Kevin Benton), and he hopes to damage Malcolm's rivals in the Colombian cartel while eliminating the hot-tempered trio in the crossfire. Holding a grudge because Sloan gunned down his brother, Malcolm is none too pleased with Dante's plan, especially after the cops survive the massacre while the
drug shipment doesn't. Billy, Ali, and Johnny are held responsible for the deaths of fellow officers and civilians at the drug club.
While under investigation for excessive force, Johnny endures the dissolution of his marriage, Ali suffers through her dad's terminal illness, and Billy considers suicide. Salvation of sorts arrives when Colombian drug dealer Sanchez (Anibal Lleras) kidnaps the falsely accused cops, rats on
Dante's double life, and offers the trio state-of-the-art weaponry and remuneration if they'll stage a fatal reprisal against Malcolm. Mitchell's investigation zeroes in on Dante, who responds by killing himself. The maverick cops invade Malcolm's estate and topple his empire. In the end, however,
they're well-paid fugitives, unable to return to their own country because of their part in rubbing out Malcolm's army.
The characters of these gonzo avengers are established early in the movie, and it's not hard to sympathize with their self-righteous railings. In true DIRTY HARRY spirit, NO ESCAPE NO RETURN presents its heroes as morally superior to the corrupt organization that hired and discarded them. If
anything, this action flick provides too much motivation--the personal travails of Johnny, Ali, and Billy aren't nearly as persuasive or involving as the filmmakers clearly hoped. Ultimately, this enterprising film fails to strike an effective balance between getting-even heroics and the more
daunting task of psychoanalyzing cops-on-the-edge; it tinkers with the standard machismo formula without radically altering it. What we're left with is a muscle-flexing, artillery-blasting exercise in hero worship that's more firmly grounded in individual psychology than is usual in the genre.
(Graphic violence, extreme profanity, adult situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Ambitious for a direct-to-video action pic, NO ESCAPE NO RETURN is burdened with drab cinematography and deficient sound recording. It nevertheless emerges as passable macho escapism about the teamwork of three renegade cops. In the middle of an escalat… (more)