I hadn’t seen No Escape since it came out and expectations were very low going in because no one ever talks about it and I was skeptical of how hacky the concept was going to come off. But it turns out I started diggin’ it almost immediately. After some initial cheap B sci-fi movie sets and effects depicting what the dystopian future of 2022 will be like (your usual dust storms, giant floating holographic heads and metallic boxy trains whizzing around on a single rail track) things really start to pick up. The first half hour is nonstop with Robbins (Ray Liotta (Hannibal)) defying evil warden Michael Lerner (Radioland Murders) and then getting shipped off to the remote atoll to fend for himself. When he arrives he’s faced with the two opposing gangs that have their own little territory. Marek (Stuart Wilson (Lethal Weapon 3)) is the leader of the ruthless barbaric gang and the Father (Lance Henriksen (Dog Day Afternoon)) is the leader of the good forget-the-past-let’s-start-over gang. Robbins doesn’t want to have anything to do with either side, he just wants off the damn island.
The action is alright, not great. There aren’t any badass “holy shit” kinda moments but Liotta is convincing as a mystery man with a military background that can break your neck in an instant if he chooses. There’s a psychotic and even suicidal edge to Robbins that makes the performance and the movie as a whole go down easier. I would totally watch another installment with this stoic character who doesn’t say much and lets his actions speak for themselves.
The non-action stuff is surprisingly strong though. Henriksen is a gem as always in this nurturing mentor role. The wisdom and humanity the Father is trying to infuse into his community of cons is genuinely inspiring. The speech he gives during a funeral for his fallen comrades after a devastating night raid by Marek is particularly beautiful.
Speaking of Marek I want to like this guy but he makes it difficult. He’s just a little too lame. Stuart Wilson’s a cool actor but he plays the character all sophisticated by using haughty language, sporting a well groomed beard (although with long semi-dreaded hair) and smiles a helluva lot showing off those perfect white teeth. In order to make this villain appear edgier they gave him these pins that go through the bridge of his nose and dressed him in black junky battle armor. The attempt to make him blend more with his crazed followers, who have sharpened teeth or are covered from head to toe in black mud, doesn’t work. The filmmakers clearly didn’t know what they wanted and they ended up with an unsuccessful clash of ideas. Although admittedly it’s sort of interesting to see this cultured brute type tried out because it’s hard to tell on paper if that would come together. Perhaps in the right instance it still can but this film provides unconvincing evidence. Oh well.
This was directed by Martin Campbell and he’s a bit underrated in my opinion. Sure he made the notoriously terrible Green Lantern but he also did what are considered to be the two best James Bond movies ever made, GoldenEye and Casino Royale. And that’s fine (not really a big Bond fan) but the one piece of his that stands out for me is The Mask of Zorro. It’s such a kickass action adventure extravaganza and if you haven’t seen it in a while you should seriously consider re-upping. And with all this under his belt and more (Vertical Limit, Edge of Darkness) he’s rarely brought up. That’s weird to me.
On No Escape Campbell turns in a solid effort. He may not have a discernable style (perhaps a reason why no one discuses him) but he does know how to handle his action/character development balance. And if he has a trademark it’s that he manages to make what you’re watching feel important. I wanted to see Robbins succeed and for the word to get out about the unthinkable shit that’s going on in the prison and on the island. The world needs to know!
So this picture is pretty fun in my opinion. There’s plenty to like here and even the shit that doesn’t work gives you a little something to think about.