April 28, 2005

Movie Thoughts: No Escape

Let's take a hypothetical situation. Go back about ten years in your own film going history, you go to a movie, you like it, you garner a good deal of enjoyment out of it, over the next couple of years you, perhaps, rent the film a couple of times, and you still like it, you may even see other films from the same director and enjoy them, therefore building him up in your mind as a talented director. Now, fast forward back to the present, you pick up a copy of said film on DVD, by now you are a different viewer than you were back then, for better or worse. Then you pop that disk in and take in the film through your new, time changed eyes, as you watch it, something dawns on you. It is not a good movie. No Escape is one of those films for me.

I originally saw it on the big screen way back in 1994, I was still a teen back then, and being a bit more superficial in my viewing I really liked it. I still liked it for a few years, renting it a few times, but it soon fell of the radar. I found the DVD on the budget rack, so I picked it up, popped it in, and finally realized that it is not a good movie at all. It's not bad because of the look, it still looks good and has plenty of decent action, it's not because of the performances, a bit campy at times, but fitting. The problem with the film is the writing, the story just does not make any sense.

Hopefully, you have seen the film prior to reading this as, for what it's worth contains spoilers.

The basic idea behind the movie is that a soldier kills his commanding officer and is sentenced to prison. This film, taking place in the future, has a different prison system than what we have today. In this future, prisons are big business, they are run by huge corporations. The island that our hero is sentenced to literally has no walls or guards, the inmates are just dumped there and must fend for themselves. For the length of the film, the hero, Robbins (Ray Liotta) is trying to get off the island, despite being welcomed into the encampment of the "good" inmates led by The Father (Lance Henriksen), who are at odds with Marek (Stuart Wilson) and his hoard. Meanwhile, the "warden" is subtlely encouraging the fighting that is going on between these two groups.

There are a number of problems here.

For one thing, it seems that the fact that even the good guys are all convicted felons, and to end up on this island you had to have done some pretty bad things. This is a minor quibble, they could have turned themselves around on this island so I can buy this problem. Others are a bit harder to let go of.

We know Robbins killed a superior officer, but the reasons are never made clear. About halfway through, we get some fuzzy "flashbacks" of some bad order that killed some people. The problem is that it is never made clear, there is no reason given for him to have to get back so badly. Granted, I wouldn't want to be there, but this is a movie, and this type of movie needs motives, it needs reasons for us to grab a hold of. It is not the type of movie that should be dancing around the reasons, it should be telling us flat out his reasoning. It just makes out "hero" a bit shallow. There is no depth, there is no reason to root for him to succeed. We need something to hold, mere action shouldn't be enough to drive the plot, what plot there is. I found it terribly annoying to have this movie where there is zero motivation.

It seems that about said mid-point the need arose for some sort of direction. That is when they tossed in those flashbacks, which don't tell us anything, and something else. Apparently the writers decided it was time to take a shot at a plot. They also added in a subplot involving the warden wanting the various gangs on the island to fight each other. So, the Father has a book which he has given to Robbins to expose what is going on on the island. This raises some more questions. Questions like, why would the warden care what happens on the island? These guys were pretty much put there to rot, so let them kill each other off. The warden goes through a lot of trouble to hide what happens on the island from the rest of the world, but no reason is given why. What is there to expose about an island prison whose only inhabitants are the prisoners.

I don't know, maybe I am nit picking a bad movie. Maybe I am doing a little bit of overanalyzing. What I do know is that a movie I liked as a teen is falling apart upon further viewings. I still enjoy the film, it has some good action, and I always (well, almost always) enjoy Lance Henriksen's performances. I guess that's enough of my feeble rantings.

Do you have any movies you used to like, but have sunk in esteem over the years?

Also at Blogcritics.org.


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