After almost killing the prison governor inmate and former soldier John Robbins is transported to the island penitentiary of Absolom. There he discovers two separate convict societies, one delights in violence the other seeks a more peaceful existence. But Robbins only has escape on his mind.
The early 90s saw the release of a handful of futuristic prison movies amongst them Wedlock with thief Rutger Hauer banged up and forced to wear an exploding collar, and Fortress wherein Christopher Lambert was incarcerated for breaking the totalitarian state's law on family planning. No Escape is probably the best of the bunch with a premise reminiscent of Terminal Island. It mixes Mad Max post apocalyptic visuals with Lord of the Flies tribal power struggles as our anti-hero finds himself in the middle of a battle between prisoners who have chosen radically opposing lifestyles.
If this was a big budget summer blockbuster it would've no doubt starred Schwarzenegger or Stallone in the lead role. Instead we have Ray Liotta, who convinces as rebellious antiauthoritarian Robbins coming to terms with his own past and caught between rival ideologies embodied by Lance Henriksen as Father and Stuart Wilson his evil opposite, Marek. Wilson in particular is on fine form giving a wonderfully witty performance making for a memorable villain. So entertaining is he that the film is noticeably worse when he's off-screen and the narrative gets bogged down in ponderous debates on right and wrong, as well as repetitious discussions on personal redemption. But thankfully the audience is never too far away from some well executed action scenes leading to the inevitable conflict between good and evil, not forgetting the escape attempt.
No Escape is a watchable modestly budgeted action movie, the pace may flag during its expositional scenes and it certainly has its fair share of cheesy dialogue but Martin Campbell handles the action well, a precursor to his sterling work revitalising James Bond in Goldeneye and bringing swashbuckling hero Zorro to the screen. However, it's Stuart Wilson's performance that marks this film out as a recommended cut above its rivals.