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No Escape/D,C+

HBO/1994/118m/ANA,WS 2.35

      The script logic of No Escape capes me. Why tell this story at all. This is an example of concept at its worst. Start out with a maximum-security prison sometime in the future. Add a rebellious new inmate that’s so quick he can put a gun to the warden’s head before you can count to six. Then shift gears totally. Abandon the Science Fiction basis and dump your prisoner on an island where former inmates are vying for survival. So they fight it out under the delighted eye of the prison warden who can watch everything on video beamed through a very good spy satellite.
     The best thing about No Escape is Stuart Wilson. He plays Walter Marek, the leader of The Outsiders. Wilson has a good time hamming it up, throwing one-liners better than spears and showing his teeth in a variety of situations. But he’s just one of the villains. This is Ray Liotta’s show. Liotta is Robbins, a former Special Forces captain who can break out of most any prison and who has been thrown on this island of living hell, Absolom, because he couldn’t be a model prisoner. Hell? Absolom doesn’t seem so bad. The prison looked a lot worse. There’s even enough freedom so that a civil minority of the prisoners has established a nice little farming community. But Marek and The Outsiders are determined to break into The Insider community and destroy it. I am not sure why they want to, but hey it’s something to do on a Saturday night. The main questions here are: Will Dad, The Insider leader save the community? Will Robbins join the fight? Will Marek ever stop smiling? Whatever will become of the warden?
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Love at first sight. Robbins meets Marek©HBO

    Liotta provides a one-note performance, overuses the Liotta stare, and generally proves that No Escape won’t provide the leaping off point for an action movie career. Lance Henriksen gets to make some sanctimonious speeches as The Father, leader of The Insiders and Kevin Dillon plays a young prisoner who wants to be Robbins’ friend.  Ironically, it’s filmed very well by director Martin Campbell. The photography is slick. The music packs punch. And it all moves pretty quickly, thank God. Maybe the producers hoped they could develop a No Escape Theme Park. Just dump park visitors onto an island and let them fight it out for food. Does it sound familiar?
     Much of the time No Escape looks very good. But there’s a major problem with edge enhancement. Horizontal lines break up and hop around with irritating regularity. The jittery opening credits are indicative of the problem. Long shots of the camp turn onto a mass of slithering lines. No Escape is a very dark move. The contrast is strong. Night scenes have plenty of snap. The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround provides lots of added excitement to the fighting.

filmhead1.gif (2331 bytes)  1998 Stuart J. Kobak , all rights reserved.