Escape from Absolom [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (29th July 2018).
The Film

"Escape from Absolom" AKA "No Escape" (1994)

It is the year 2022 where prisons have become a thriving business. Prisoner 2675 is former marine John Robbins (played by Ray Liotta) who is sent to Absolom - a prison island when there are no guards, no walls, no cells, and no rules. The remote island is filled with a few hundred prisoners, and Robbins encounters the leader of "The Outsiders" Marek (played by Stuart Wilson), a brutal and powerful figure that basically gives Robbins no other choice but to be under his rule. But Robbins uses his military trained survival skills to narrowly escape. He is rescued by a smaller community of prisoners who have set up law and order for peace, led by "The Father" (played by Lance Henriksen and his group of loyal men. Robbins will do anything to escape from the island but with Marek on his tail with his hundreds of minions, escaping from the island comes second to defending the community.

"Escape from Absolom" as it is known in Australia and titled "No Escape" elsewhere, the action survival film was directed by Martin Campbell, produced by Gale Anne Hurd, and adapted from the novel by Richard Herley. The independent production was made on a modest $20 million budget in Queensland, Australia and the film was released in 1994 along with a video game tie-in for the Super NES and the Sega Genesis to middling reviews and a low box office gross of just $15 million. So what was it that didn't work for the film?

To be fair, the film is not a disaster at all with impressive natural visuals, great action, and a flowing story. The performances from Henriksen and Wilson as the rival leaders are also top notch with Henriksen leading a focused sense for the community of convicts looking for betterment and Wilson as a savage yet intellectual villain. What doesn't seem to work is the world around the story. The year 2022 is seen in a few visuals in the opening with the monorail, the high towering complexes, though these look almost cheaply made with only a shot or two focusing on these. In addition the first prison we see the Robbins character in is barely seen as the audience is quickly transported to the jungle on the remote island, so it's very open ended to see how society is in this close future. In comparison, the similarly themed island prison film "Terminal Island" (1973) starts from news sources and how the public view the prison system. It played closer to "Escape from New York" (1982) where the entire film is basically contained within the prison walls, but with that film the social commentary is also seen from within the walls while in "Escape from Absolom" it is just seen as "good community" vs "bad guys" - though technically they are all criminals in the minds of the judicial system. In addition the film takes a lot of cues from "Rambo - First Blood" (1982) with the survival in the jungle and mistreatment of the main character. Though again, in "Escape from Absolom" the social commentary is barely even a backdrop as it only focuses on the action and survival aspects. There is the subplot of Robbins doing whatever he can to find a safe passage off the island, but the additional plot of him exposing about an incident in the warfield in flashbacks are not fleshed out enough to give momentum, and when he reveals the truth about the incident the audience is not caring about the minor point by then. As for Liotta playing Robbins, he is basically a flat noted character with little depth. He's the lone wolf that doesn't quite fit in but has the skills in fighting and surviving that come as necessary for the people around him. It is interesting to see his relationship with characters such as Hawkins (played by Ernie Hudson) and Casey (played by Kevin Dillion) change over the course of the film, but nothing surprising or out of the ordinary is seen. The issues had are that nothing is particularly new with the storytelling and plot, and the social commentary plus the characterizations are on the flat or non-existent side.

Not to have everything as an understatement, the film is still a lot of fun to watch, but it does have a made-for-cable TV vibe rather than a full blown A list theatrical film. If one is looking for simplistic story and action packed fights and explosions, "Escape from Absolom" does hit the bases well there. But for people looking to find the best of the best from the filmographies of the various cast and crew, it's better left elsewhere.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The film has had a difficult life on DVD in the past. There were editions that were in the 2.35:1 ratio but non-anamorphic. Some other editions were anamorphic but reformatted to 1.78:1. Some were cropped heavily to 1.33:1. Thankfully this Blu-ray release restores the original ratio and fit for HD. The transfer is fairly good, but there are some minor flaws as well. On the positive side the image is fairly clean with only a few minor specs noticeable in the opening credits and not much further on. The nature of greens and browns are on the darker side as are skin tones and environments and come off quite well. Depth is also very good with detail with no issues of artificial sharpening or enhancement done to the film. Some issues lie with minor fluctuation of the image which is minor but noticeable, and some unusual image distortion due to the anamorphic lenses used which don't seem to be corrected, causing faces to look slightly warped like a rhombus, but this only happens in very select shots. Overall it is a fairly good transfer from Umbrella.

The film uses the "Escape from Absolom" title card, is uncut with a runtime of 118:05.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo
French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround

The original English track gets a lossless 2.0 stereo option. It's surprising that the film was originally released with a Dolby Stereo SR track not given a full 5.1 surround track considering it was 1994 when most theaters were equipped for it. As DTS does not have a 2.0 surround capability, the 2.0 track is labeled as "stereo". On a Pro-Logic setup the track can be forced to surround, though the track has some issues. Noticeably the dialogue is encoded at a much lower volume than the effects and music so when the explosions occur they are a little on the overpowering side. The effects are sometimes on the muffled side as well with the punches, gunshots and explosions. On the positive side dialogue is clear and easy to understand and there are no issues of audio errors in the track. Also provided are additional dubs in French, German, Italian, and Spanish encoded in Dolby surround, and even though they are lower encoded, the surround track separation is actually much better than the lossless English track with the music and effects utilizing the surround soundscape. Unfortunately the English track in comparison has much less stereo separation and could have benefited by upmixing to at least 4.0 or possibly given a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 surround encoding.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font. They are easy to read, but unfortunately the subtitles are not full, missing phrases and some words or even changing some of the sentence structures altogether. Even spelling mistakes are seen such as the word "Stop!" being written as "Slop!". Maybe that subtitle was pointing out the sloppiness of the captioning?

Extras

"Making Of" featurette 1 (29:13)
In this vintage featurette entitled "The Making of Escape from Absolom" in the credits, it is filled with interviews from the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. They talk about the film's production, the characters, and the themes of the film. It is funny to read up to the end credits where it has the usual copyright notice and about unauthorized duplication may lead to criminal prosecution, which is followed by "Or you could end up on the island. We wouldn't want that, now would we?"
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1 and 1.85:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Making Of" featurette 2 (6:20)
This featurette uses the US "No Escape" title and is a condensed version of the first featurette featuring the same soundbites and footage. The transfer has been cropped and slightly windowboxed.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (2:10)
The US trailer with the "No Escape" title. The colors are a bit washed out and the image is formatted to 1.78:1 with a bit of windowboxing.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

TV Spot 1 (0:30)
TV Spot 2 (0:30)
TV Spot 3 (0:30)
TV Spot 4 (0:29)

A series of American television spots are offered and are again in a cropped 1.78:1 ratio rather than 1.33:1.
in 720p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles


There are no new extras available on this as these are all previously released vintage extras. Though note this is the first time both versions of the "Making Of" featurette are offered together as all other DVD editions offered only one or the other. To note this Australian Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment is the second Blu-ray edition worldwide, following a German Blu-ray from Nameless Entertainment released only a month prior. The German Blu-ray has both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options in English and German, the longer featurette and alternate credits.

Packaging

The inlay is reversible with the original side having the Australian "Escape from Absolom" title with the Australian "M" rating logo, and the opposite side having the international "No Escape" title with no rating logo on the front.
The package also states the disc is region B only but this is a region ALL disc.

Overall

"Escape from Absolom" is a fairly entertaining film though it does have its flaws of being overly simplified when it could have been much more on social commentary and characterizations. Instead it falls into a fairly average survival film category. The Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray features very good video, somewhat disappointing audio, and all the previously released DVD supplements as extras.

The Film: C Video: A- Audio: B- Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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