THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
No Escape (1994)
Directed by Martin Campbell
“I love this flick. It feels large, mean, and gritty.”
Any time a movie is set in a world where society has diminished and chaos rules like a massive bitch slap, I’m interested. Specifically I love post-apocalyptic movies with places where the shit has hit an industrial sized fan in the worst kinda ways, where mankind hates itself so much that we’ve resorted to being assholes (well, more like savage animals). I’ll watch great films of the genre, and I’ll watch garbage. It just has to be a good story, be set in an interesting world, and have some crazy things go down.
Now with 1994’s No Escape, it isn’t a post-apocalyptic story, but it works like one. In a world where capitalism has gone all wrong and for profit…even for prisons…nothing good can come of it. So even though normal society still exists, it doesn’t for the inmates on the island as they live in a mini version of the Mad Max world. Actually, the opening title card probably explains it better than I can: "In the year 2022, the international prison system is operated. By private corporations. Criminals from all over the world are exploited. At a profit. Prisons. Have become big business." In other words, things get nutty.
No Escape is essentially a forgotten film. It’s not even available to buy from Amazon at a reasonable price. But we shouldn’t overlook it because it’s not a damn good prison movie, but I think part of the appeal comes from Mr. Ray Liotta. This is 1994, a few years after Goodfellas, and dude was on his way to becoming the next big thing. This movie was a major step. If this movie had hit, he could have been the next action star, a badass who looks like an absolute nut. A true killer. No Escape also gave Liotta a chance to break him away from the gangster lifestyle (well, stereotyped in there).
Ok…so maybe this film didn't do any of those things but who the hell cares. Liotta plays the action hero well, and even gives that kinda character an extra layer of darkness that few actors can give. It’s too bad he never got another shot like this to be a man of action, and instead embraced that gangster role. Can’t blame him. He’s pretty damn good at that, too.
Here, Liotta plays Captain J.T. Robbins, a military badass who is sent to the worse prison on earth -- a nasty place where people get dead in the worse ways. However, it’s gotta be better than being behind bars. Anyway, once Robbins arrives, he has to decide between to two warring factions. 1) The good guys led by Lance “Aliens” Henriksen and Ernie “Ghostbusters” Hudson. 2) The bad guys led by Stuart “Lethal Weapon 2” Wilson, who does everything he can to make this his breakthrough role (ala Alan Rickman in Die Hard). Wilson, sporting a few too many nose rings, does his best to create a memorable villain. He does a damn good job too as he has a thing for beheading folks.
I love this flick. It feels large, mean, and gritty. Maybe it isn't as epic as it wanted to be but the thing at least tried. Part of that we probably can thank director Martin Campbell, who of course gave us the Zorro remakes and two great Bond flicks (I’ll overlook Green Lantern). The other part I give credit to Liotta. It would have been interesting to see where his career would have went if this had popped. Still, you can’t complain. Dude makes a hell of a gangster. Regardless, No Escape has been unfairly overlooked. It's got some great action sequences, good gore, nasty brutality, and doesn't even have time for women. Nope, not on this island. Perhaps that makes this the ultimate man's movie...for better or for worse.