Plot: J.T. Robbins (Ray Liotta) has found himself en route to Absolom, the most brutal prison ever engineered and an island hell that has no release dates, just an endless list of deceased prisoners. He winds up in the presence of Marek (Stuart Wilson), a ruthless leader who commands a band of savages known as The Outsiders, but when J.T. kills their executioner, he earns some respect. He has no intentions to take up the mantle of his late opponent however, so he goes on the run and is found by another group, this one more peaceful and led by The Father (Lance Henriksen). Here he is able to patch up his wounds and he learns that Absolom is under high-tech watch, allowing prison officials to even orchestrate prisoner deaths. J.T. refuses to give up and still plans to escape, but between the prison’s advanced security measures and Marek’s wild presence, can J.T. even survive, let alone make an escape?
Entertainment Value: This 90s action flick has a lot to offer, with Ray Liotta as our action hero, an island prison filled with set piece potential, a dystopian atmosphere, and a bad guy that devours scenes like he is always famished. The movie also embraces the kind of action that provides a wink to the audience, so while the tone is serious at times, there’s a sense of humor here as well. No Escape doesn’t take itself too seriously and to me, that is one reason it works so well. The movie isn’t as over the top as some of the 80s action staples, but it feels cut from the same cloth, just scaled down. The pace is brisk and never feels bloated, thanks to some light, kinetic world building and a focus on colorful characters that don’t need in depth backstories, so No Escape gets a lot done without slowing down to make it happen. The action scenes are plentiful and offer some fun set pieces, with more involved, large scale moments than expected, which really adds production value here. You can tell this wasn’t a movie with a massive budget, but the film looks quite polished and puts the budget on screen, so it never feels like a low rent production. I think No Escape is a fun, well crafted action/thriller that all you could want from the genre and more, so anyone interested in old school style action should check this one out.
I think the cast of No Escape is a nice ensemble of talent, with genre staples and some capable character actors in small roles. Ray Liotta as a hero isn’t an experience we often get to sample, but he more than rises to the challenge here. I think he handles the needs of the role with ease, as he is believable in the action scenes, has that natural bad ass persona, and brings some depth to the character. The script doesn’t give him a lot to work with when it comes to the latter, but Liotta is able to make even small moments pack a little more punch. He is a terrific lead here and the movie makes me wish he would have been given more opportunities like this one, so fans of his work will have a lot of fun with this performance. Stuart Wilson dials up his villain role to the moon, which some might not appreciate, but I think his over the top turn is a lot of fun and feels at home, given the movie’s sense of humor. He is a nice contrast with Liotta’s gritty action hero, if nothing else. The cast also includes Lance Henriksen, Ernie Hudson, Kevin Dillon, and Michael Lerner.
The Disc: Umbrella’s Blu-ray release delivers a smooth, impressive visual effort that looks a touch dated, but still more than solid. The image is clean and shows great detail in most scenes, while colors appear natural and rich, as evidenced by the deep greens of the jungle prison. If compared to the DVD editions, this transfer stands head and shoulders above, so fans should be satisfied. As far as extras, we have over half an hour of behind the scenes material, some tv spots, and the film’s trailer.