No Escape 1994 Movie Scene Ray Liotta as Robbins captured by the evil Marek

No Escape [1994]

To this day, almost thirty years later, I cannot explain why this movie became so popular in such a short time back in the nineties. The story is nothing special, Ray Liotta’s performance was excellent but limited by the script and the setting was quite ordinary. And yet this was one of the most popular B science fiction movies of the nineties. And its popularity steadily grew in the following years. It’s based on a novel The Penal Colony by Richard Herley and this was the working title. Although we know it as No Escape, this movie is also known as Escape from Absolom and Absolom 2022. Absolom being the name of the penal colony where the story is taking place.

No Escape is an action movie set in a dystopian future where all prisons are run by corporations. The hero of our story, Robbins ends up in the worst one of them all. The movie combines several popular and subversive themes from the eighties into a solid narrative. We have evil corporations, a post-apocalyptic environment, and a ruthless struggle for power. While this is a science fiction movie taking place in the faraway year of 2022, there won’t be almost any futuristic concepts here. We do open showing exactly that but then the story shifts to a deserted island.

So, we’re basically in Mad Max territory here. No Escape is definitely B movie escapism at its finest, aimed squarely at the male population. There are no female characters, romance, or any of that shit. Here, everything revolves around basic survival and power. And when you put those concepts into a pressure cooker that is a prison, no matter how big and lush it is, you get a tight action movie. The action scenes look good and believable although the movie wasn’t as graphic as I remember it to be. Make sure you check out the latest Blu-ray version which came out just last year. The image quality is excellent.

John Robbins is an ex-marine now serving a life sentence. However, he’s not willing to make peace with that fact. He just keeps escaping from prison after prison until they send him to Absolom. This penal colony is located on an uninhabited island. There are no rules, no cameras, and no prison cells. Just nature and hundreds and hundreds of worst criminals in the world and beyond. Robbins will have to use all his skills and wit to get out of this situation. If he survives the first night that is.

I know what you’re thinking, Hey, this sure does sound a lot like Carpenter’s Escape from New York. And you’re right. In fact, I think that the decision to change the location from the urban to a more natural one was made to compensate for that fact in the original novel. If you’re looking for futuristic prisons, 1992’s Fortress starring Christopher Lambert is a good choice. And I simply have to mention one of my favorite movies ever, the Spanish masterpiece El Hoyo. In fact, all three movies share a humorous and even cheeky undertone defusing some of the tension and bleakness of the situation.

The post-apocalyptic medieval setting is also reminscant of a couple of Bruce Campbell movies from the nineties. The first one is the classic, Army of Darkness, the third part in the Evil Dead trilogy. And the second one is a more underrated but equally good Mindwarp. Since No Escape is a movie based on a novel, we do get a couple of cool moments and twists. Something you wouldn’t expect in a movie of this caliber.  

The way Robbins acts is quite unpredictable but entirely logical from his perspective. Ray Liotta gave a phenomenally good performance here. It made the movie that much more believable and immersive. Apart from him I also liked Stuart Wilson playing the bad guy Marek just right. Ernie Hudson and Lance Henriksen were also good. It’s also funny to think that the director of this movie Martin Campbell went from shooting a B movie in Australia to directing Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Richard Herley, Michael Gaylin, Joel Gross

Cast: Ray Liotta, Lance Henriksen, Stuart Wilson, Kevin Dillon, Ernie Hudson, Michael Lerner

Fun Facts: The helicopters you see in the movie No Escape are Russian Kamov Ka-27 Helix helicopters. Their main purpose is to hunt submarines although I’m not quite sure how that works.


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