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Escape Review

March 23, 2024 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Escape Image Credit: Howard J. Ford
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Escape Review  

Escape Review

Sarah Alexandra Marks– Karla
Sophie Rankin– Lucy
Sean Cronin– Andres
Louis James– Jude
Ksenia Islamova– Tamsin
Glenn Savage– Eyepatch
Jon-Paul Gates– Russian guy
Mark Haldor– Rodriguez
Scott Hillier– Collins
Peter Lovstrom– Jack
Stephen Murphy– Carlos
Olga Roh– Olivia Thompson

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Howard J. Ford
Screenplay by Howard J. Ford

Distributed by Saban Films

Rated R for bloody violence, language throughout, brief graphic nudity and drug use, and a sexual reference.
Runtime– 93 minutes

Image Credit: Saban Films

Escape, written and directed by Howard J. Ford and now available on digital and Video on Demand, is a super sleazy action thriller that will both make your skin crawl and make you cheer when the bad guys get what’s coming to them (and, boy, one of those bad guys gets it big time). There’s a moment towards the end of the movie that doesn’t really work (the character background the scene divulges is fine but it should have come sooner in the movie) and there’s one character that you’re supposed to like/”understand” but there’s just no way that’s possible, but for the most part Escape is solid, if queasy, B-movie entertainment.

Escape stars Sarah Alexandra Marks as Karla, a young, blonde, and resourceful nurse who finds herself kidnapped by a gang of sex traffickers while on vacation at a beautiful island resort. Holed up in the basement jail of the ruthless scumbag gang leader Andres (Sean Cronin) along with nine other kidnapped young women (Lucy, as played by Sophie Rankin, Robyn, played by Mega Lockhurst, Chloe, as played by Tiffany Hannam-Daniels, and Anna, as played by Hannah Baxter-Eve are some of the kidnaped women), the young women are set to be sold to a faceless overseas buyer and sent to God knows where by cargo ship in two days. Karla tries to calm the other women and get them organized for a potential escape. At first, the other women in the cell are unsure of Karla’s attempt to get organized as they don’t seem to understand what’s going on (well, they understand what’s going on but they don’t know how to respond to it beyond panic, which is understandable). They all come around to Karla’s way of thinking after some quiet discussion and eventually come up with a plan to get out of the cell, neutralize their kidnappers, and get the hell out of there.

Now, while all of that is happening, kidnaped young woman Tamsin (Ksenia Islamova) is being held in Andres’ bedroom to be raped (apparently Andres always “tests out” one of the women he kidnaps). Little does Andres know that Tamsin isn’t going to cooperate, isn’t going to “give in and take it,” and is going to fight back until she can’t fight back anymore. In fact, Tamsin is the first woman to escape, and as we see at the very beginning of the movie, Tamsin is also the first woman to fight back against her captors and kick ass.

And while all of that is going on, we find out that newbie kidnapper and pretty boy scumbag Jude (Louis James) isn’t fully onboard with his new “kidnapping young women so they can be sold into sex slavery” job. Jude is apparently only involved with Andres because it’s easy money and he needs easy money because a family member is sick or something. And we see Jude try to help the women he kidnapped get out of their predicament (he goes to visit them “one last time” before they’re all put on a boat).

And while all of that is going on, the parents of the kidnapped women become worried that their children haven’t called them in days and none of them have posted on their social media, either. Rich parent Olivia Thompson (Olga Roh) uses her considerable resources and connections to put together a team of detectives and experts to find her daughter as well as all of the others as the big suspicion is that all of the young women have been kidnapped.

So Karla puts her big plan into motion, the women fight back and escape, and Andres and his team of kidnapping scumbags give chase. Will Karla and the others be able to get away? Will Andres be able to “retrieve his merchandise” and get his money? Will Olga Thompson’s team be able to find the kidnapped women and rescue them? And what’s going to happen to Jude?

The opening pre-credits sequence, where we see Tamsin attempt to evade a bad guy that sort of looks like a Jason Momoa impersonator (this is Rodriguez, played by Mark Haldor), is pretty nasty and helps establish what you’re about to see throughout the movie’s 93 minute runtime. We then see Karla and most of the other women arriving at their vacation destinations and trying to have fun at the beach and whatnot while being surveilled by the Andres run team of kidnappers. We then see Jude work his “nice guy pretty boy” magic on the various young women. To say that you feel uneasy during all of this is a serious understatement as you know what’s going on but the young women don’t. The young women are just trying to live their goddamn lives. The sleaze factor sets in big time when we actually see several of the women assaulted and kidnapped and thrown into the underground jail cell.

The various kidnappers working for Andres are superb in their depravity and scumbaggery. There’s a guy with an eye patch (Glenn Savage), a Russian guy (Jon Paul-Gates), two mega jock bald guys (Scott Hillier and Steven Murphy), and a sort of British guy (Peter Lovstrom) along with Mark Haldor’s Rodriguez. Some of these guys are weirdly funny (like Hillier’s character, who may be Australian), and the eyepatch guy and the Russian guy have this “buddy” back and forth that is hilarious (they have no problem killing cops and they like to argue over who can drive. Eyepatch can’t, for whatever reason). You like watching them as movie villains, but you can’t wait to see them get destroyed. You don’t know how it’s going to happen, but you know, at some point, it’s going to have to happen (you get the sense, based on the opening sequence, that Escape probably isn’t going to have a downbeat ending. Probably).

As for the kidnapped women, there isn’t one moment in the movie where you don’t root for them. Not one. Even when they start arguing over what to do and whether or not they should listen to Karla you never lose faith in them. They have to get out of this predicament. You wish you could help them somehow.

The attempt to make Jude somehow less of a scumbag doesn’t really work. Even if he comes to his senses and realizes what he’s done and tries to make things right, you can never support him or root for him. As soon as he knowingly participates in the big kidnapping scheme you want him to die. Jude’s need for money doesn’t mitigate what we see him do to the women. Are you happy that he tries to help them? Yes. But you still want to see him die. Jude is, like all of the other kidnappers, unredeemable. He just is.

I’m not sure I like the whole “rich parent puts together a team of detectives to find out what happened” part of the movie. I sort of understand why it’s in the movie, but I think I would have preferred to see the plot focus on the kidnapped women and what they do to escape. There are other ways to get a rescue helicopter scene into the movie.

And then there’s the Tamsin plot. What ends up happening to her is a big letdown, especially after we see her escape and take on Rodriguez (and when you realize that she’s on the movie’s poster it’s an even bigger letdown. It would have been awesome to see her actually wield a machine gun in the movie).

The general sleaziness of Escape is probably going to upset some people, but then the whole movie is meant to upset you. The sleaziness also perfectly sets up the movie’s final act, which will no doubt have the audience cheering. I know I did the “big Chuck Bronson doing the ‘right on’ fist shake from Death Wish 3” at the end of the movie.

Sarah Alexandra Marks is fantastic as Karla. She just wanted to have a nice vacation at the resort and live her life, but then she finds herself in a truly terrible situation and does what she can to understand what’s going and figure out how to get herself and the other women out of it. Karla is tough, resourceful, levelheaded (as much as one could be in a sex trafficking situation), and she knows how to run. You may not like how she tries to “hold on to her humanity” at the end of the movie, but you will eventually understand it (I learned to accept it a few hours after watching the movie).

Sophie Rankin does a great job as Lucy, the only kidnapped woman kidnapped wearing sneakers (everyone else seemed to be wearing some other type of shoes. They were all on vacation). Lucy seems unstable at times, but that’s because of her background (we see towards the end of the movie via flashback her terrible relationship with an abusive boyfriend. I don’t like where this flashback sits in the movie, it should have come sooner. Where it is now just stops the movie dead in its tracks). She’s just as resourceful as Karla, which is exactly what the group of kidnaped women needs.

Ksenia Islamova is awesome as Tamsin, Karla’s friend and the first woman to fight back against the kidnappers. Islamova goes through some of the nastiest stuff in the movie (this stuff will make your skin crawl the most), but she also gets one of the best “hell yeah!” scenes when she takes on Rodriguez. The movie does Tamsin dirty, though. Tamsin should have had a different outcome.

Sean Cronin is the biggest scumbag in the world as Andres. Just a reprehensible man from the second you see him, Andres is the perfect bad guy for this sort of plot. I think you’d be surprised if you found out he wasn’t somehow involved in a sex trafficking ring. Cronin also makes Andres the exact sort of pseudo “alpha male” asshole that you want to see die and die horribly because he deserves it. And, oh yeah, Andres gets what’s coming to him in the biggest “gets what’s coming to him” way possible.

Louis James does a nice job as Jude. Again, it’s impossible to like him or root for him, even when Jude comes to his senses and tries to help the women he just kidnapped, but you can’t deny that James has an appealing screen presence.

And the rest of the bad guys are just terrific in their awfulness. Glenn Savage, Jon Paul-Gates, Mark Haldor, Scott Hillier, Peter Lovstrom, and Steven Murphy play their evil parts brilliantly, and you can’t wait to see them all die. Because they just have to die at some point. And check out how Glenn Savage gets his. Just great stuff.

Escape is a fine piece of modern exploitation cinema. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and the movie’s sleaziness will no doubt upset some, but it works more than it doesn’t and that’s precisely what you need from an indie action thriller like Escape. It’s an uneasy good time with a glorious ending that will make you cheer. And I’m totally fine with that. Totally. I did want the “hot woman in a bikini wielding a machine gun” promised by the poster. Maybe we’ll actually get that in the inevitable sequel?

See Escape. See it, see it, see it. Escape is now available on digital and Video On Demand.

Image Credit: Howard J. Ford

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: About 10

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: I know it says there is “brief graphic nudity” in the rating description, and there is nudity, but it’s not the nudity you expect.

Doobage: Running, a foot chase through the desert, sharp piece of wood to the gut, branch breaking, serious rock to the face, knife to the chest, pickaxe to the gut, attempted vacation, talking on the phone, a big criminal meeting, a container ship, off screen soccer, serious beach time, booze drinking, chloroform, kidnapping, tape bondage, a basement jail cell, a bucket for a toilet, face stabbing, neck slashing, off screen neck breaking, serious cop killing, packaged sandwiches and bottled water, involuntary bed bondage, wound cleaning, wallet dropping, off screen body disposal, barbed wire, beer drinking, shoe removal, wine drinking, wine bottle to the head, a beer trick, strangulation, more gut stabbing, beer bottle to the head, big wrench to the head, involuntary impalement, hammer attack, serious hand biting with bloody finger removal, serious hammer to the head, hand cutting, attempted hand fixing with duct tape, frantic survival eating, off screen barfing, a fingernail, attempted hiding, caves, rock grabbing, back of the neck slicing, even more gut stabbing, gut punching, rock to the head, foot stabbing, sharp twig to the eye, attempted murder, a wicked head shot, heavy object to the head, rain, a helicopter.

Kim Richards? None.

Gratuitous: Woman in a bikini running in the desert from a guy that looks like a Jason Momoa impersonator, manic drone cinematography, vacation resort, a swimming pool, plant spraying, pretty blonde women, an evil bad guy staff meeting, a pool table with red felt, the lead bad guy emphasizing that his henchmen must capture and kidnap pretty blonde women who are really hot, a bad guy wearing an eyepatch, a montage of hot women having fun, taking selfies, walking alone in the desert, and trying on swimsuits because they’re just trying to live their goddamn lives, a pink thong, “quality ass,” talking about Covid, a wrist tattoo, shout out to the UK’s National Health Service, a “parents calling their children” montage, attempted rape, GHB, henchmen surveilling the grounds of their compound at night, bad guys referring to the kidnapped women as “merchandise,” a promise of fellatio, caves, a guy wearing an eyepatch using a spy glass, a domestic violence flashback, serious cocaine snorting, and the ultimate comeuppance.

Best lines: “Have the most amazing time. I miss you.” “Andres? Dimitri? It’s your lucky day.” “Do you still think of her? Every day.” “You girls on holiday?” “So, Karla, what do you really do? I’m a nurse.” “What’s going to happen to them? I don’t know. And I don’t care as long as I get paid.” “Back off! Shut up! Shut it!” “What do they want with us? I don’t know.” “She’s tough. Trust me. She won’t give in without a fight.” “Isn’t it obvious? Look at us all. We’re going to be fucking sex slaves!” “I’ll tell you what. You make as much noise as like. I’ll even help you if you want. Help! Help! I’m trapped down here! Come rescue me! I’ve got no internet signal! And I haven’t been on my social media feed for an hour! No one can hear you. Out there there’s nothing but 40 square miles of desert. And at night time it’s freezing cold. If I open up them doors to let you out you’ll fucking die. And they’ll hunt you down like a pack of wolves. In here, you’ve got me and him to look after you. And if you play your cards right and be nice to us there might even be some perks.” “We need to gather information.” “Keep it down, for crying out loud! You’re giving me a headache!” “They checked me over like I was a piece of meat.” “Is our cargo on schedule?” “Keep trying. Soon you’ll have no energy left.” “Do you know what? I’ve got to tell you, there’s not much I wouldn’t do right now for a swig or two of that beer. Oh yeah? Yeah.” “Where the fuck are these girls? Where are they?” “Find these girls! Fucking idiots!” “What do they say? Silly bitch.” “I will fuck this one. Just for you.” “Listen! What do you mean she’s not there? Fuck!” “You lose two fucking blondes! Not one, but two! Fucking idiots!” “I’m gonna gut you like a pig!” “My fucking eye!” “This is a fucking nightmare!” “You are supposed to be dead.” “Let’s see what kind of man you really are!” “Get to work. Do what you’re good for.” “Lucy! He is not worth it! Oh, he’s fucking worth it!”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Escape, written and directed by Howard J. Ford, is a super sleazy action thriller that will make you queasy, make your skin crawl, and make you cheer when the bad guys get what’s coming to them (and, boy, one of those bad guys gets it big time). The movie isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination (some bizarre choices are made), and the movie’s sleaziness will no doubt upset some, but it works more than it doesn’t and that’s precisely what you need from an indie action thriller like Escape. Escape is a solid piece of modern exploitation cinema, a worthwhile B-movie that you should see. So see it. Escape is currently available on digital and Video On Demand.

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Escape, Bryan Kristopowitz