Recently, I had a vague memory of a movie. I swore that I had seen it, way back in the dark and distant days of the 1990s. I couldn’t remember what it was called, but I was having visions of Ray Liotta running around a jungle prison and killing people. What was this film? Had I imagined it? Was it a dream?
No, it was not. I was remembering No Escape, a 1994 film from Martin Campbell. It’s not surprising that I was having a hard time remembering this flick. It’s fallen into the cracks of film history. Neither iTunes nor Amazon has it available for streaming. But, no matter. No film shall remain unseen as long as there is such a thing as a Russian with a computer. Somewhere on this earth a single person was seeding No Escape, and I thank them for it.
It’s the near future, and John Robbins (Ray Liotta) is on his way to prison. During a military parade, Robbins stepped out of the ranks and put a bullet into his commanding officer’s head. There was no ambiguity about the action, earning Liotta a long stretch in a for-profit prison run by an evil warden (Michael Lerner). Robbins turns out to be a bit of a troublemaker, but instead of throwing him into solitary, the warden has a better punishment.
A helicopter ride away from the prison, there is another, secret prison. A jungle island in the middle of nowhere serves as the film’s main location. There are no walls and no guards, but also no facilities of any kind. When the warden sends one of his prisoners to the island, he’s effectively wiping them off the books. No one ever leaves.
Robbins is dropped into the jungle, and after a bit of him running for his life, he ends up in the jungle compound of another bad guy, Marek (Stuart Wilson). There, he’s given an opportunity to join a thriving group, but what does Robbins do instead? He pisses off everyone there within minutes of arrival and has to flee again. He then makes his way to yet another location, only this one’s authority figure is, luckily for Robbins, no sadist. He is The Father (Lance Henriksen). Okay, at first blush, that doesn’t sound much better, but this compound has no crazy inmates or cannibals. It has Ernie Hudson and Kevin Dillon.
Robbins, of course, throws in with The Father’s little tribe and suddenly decides it’s okay to risk his life for these people he barely knows, a la a Mad Max film. What follows is some predictable action and violence, and a little comeuppance for the bad guys to round things out. There really isn’t anything more complicated happening in this film.
If there was intended to be some commentary about the savage nature of man when all modern accouterments are taken away, that idea is wasted by the fact the prisoners are, well, prisoners. I’m sure there’s the occasional innocent in the crowd, but even the film’s hero is a convicted murderer. This isn’t Lord of the Flies. Savagery was the only thing that could happen with this cast of characters.
The anonymity of this film isn’t helped by the poor sound mixing and Foley work. We viewers aren’t supposed to notice that stuff. When I did, I was yanked right out of my suspension of disbelief.
The isolated jungle location is intriguing, but that might just be because it’s been well over a year since I have had a vacation. The city is really closing in on me.
No Escape is no more inept than any other mediocre 1990s action flick. Despite its low production value, there was some good talent in the cast. Why it has fallen into obscurity might just be down to luck of the draw. No Escape is kind of shitty by default, but Alien: Resurrection is better, simply because it had aliens in it. No Escape would have been much better if there were aliens running around on the island.