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‘No Escape’ (R)By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 29, 1994
Brio-bristling, Bambi-eyed Ray Liotta falls somewhere between Conan and Gilligan as a court-martialed Marine sentenced to life in "No Escape," a loopy futuristic prison-break flick set on an island paradise populated by what appear to be gangs of Pier 1 shoppers. Actually, they're disciples of the Father (Lance Henriksen), a messianic figure whose followers make most of their own clothes and furniture from natural fibers and recycled beach flotsam.
A band of 98 born-agains, the Insiders have renounced their evil ways to live peacefully by the sea, but they must kill to protect themselves from the savage Outsiders, who outnumber them six to one. After he is set upon by all 600, the seriously injured Capt. John Robbins (Liotta) reluctantly accepts refuge with the Insiders, yet steadfastly refuses to join their band, for he is determined to escape and clear his name.
Of course, Robbins is no ordinary criminal. A covert operative with a mysterious past, he was convicted of killing his commanding officer, but he had a damn good reason that keeps sending him into woozy flashbacks. Recognizing his military expertise, the Father urges him to join the Insiders, who could use a good strategist in their war against the Outsiders. Though the Insiders insist that Father knows best, Robbins is no joiner. Further, he suffers from a pathological hatred for authority, a trait shared by Outsiders' chief Marek (Stuart Wilson), not to mention the movie's potential audience.
While Robbins figures out his options, we keep expecting the Insiders to notice that there are no women whatsoever on the island, to share suds in the shower shack, to don coconut bras and sing "There Is Nothing Like a Dame." (Speaking of the lack of women, this movie was produced by one, Gale Anne Hurd.) They don't even dance together at the annual Christmas shindig. The only hint of hanky-panky comes when Marek captures Robbins's naif sidekick (Kevin Dillon). "Why, you're just a boy, a sweet, tender, adorable, little boy. Tie him up but don't bruise him," he coos to his henchman.
Though the screenplay has more holes than the fishermen's sweaters handknit by the Insiders, screenwriters Michael Gaylin and Joel Gross meet the genre's bloodthirsty requirements with a great deal of invention. They dilute the story's momentum, however, when they attempt to disguise it as a redemption allegory. Martin Campbell, a British director who worked on TV's "Homicide," brings good mechanics but no genius to the orgy of mayhem. The pacing tends to be relentless, though Campbell allows Liotta the occasional timeout for soul-searching beside the seashore. In the end, we learn along with Capt. Robbins that there is "No Escape" from ourselves.
Now that's having your beefcake and eating it, too.
"No Escape" is rated R for violence.
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