After being sent to the worst prison on earth, Ray Liotta will fight for survival in No Escape (Flucht Aus Absolom). This uncomplicated and highly entertaining piece of classic 90s high-concept action science fiction comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Turbine Medien in a deluxe three-disc Mediabook set. Sporting a solid Dolby Vision transfer, the real highlight of this release is an intense and effective Atmos audio track and some excellent new interviews with various production personalities to round out the bonus features. Highly Recommended
Also available from Turbine Medien
In the future of 2022, the world’s prisons have been industrialized and controlled by corporations. For the worst offenders and the world’s dirty laundry, there is Absolom, a remote island so secrete it isn’t sanctioned and The Warden (Michael Lerner) earns a handsome profit. When ex-marine John Robbins (Ray Liotta) is dropped on the island, it was supposed to be a quick death by Marek (Stuart Wilson) and his band of cannibal marauders The Outsiders. But Robbins manages to escape with a powerful weapon to the sanctuary of The Insiders – a band of prisoners led by The Father (Lance Henrikson) who have rebuilt their own society of law and order on the island. Together they will have to stop Marek and find a way to escape the island to tell the world of the men stranded on this remote slice of Hell on Earth.
In the dust of the original Mad Max trilogy rode a roughshod gang of imitators attempting to rework the high-concept post-apocalyptic wave of science fiction action. The most famous (and arguably infamous) is the Kevin Reynolds and Kevin Costner aquatic wonder Waterworld. But released a year before and quickly dismissed by critics and nearly completely forgotten by audiences was Martin Campbell’s (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) No Escape - or Escape From Absolom as it’s known throughout most of the world. It featured similar trappings to the Mad Max franchise with men cobbling together an odd assortment of weapons and armor out of trash and scrap metal living on the fringe of a collapsed society. Swap the desert wasteland or the open ocean for remote jungles with some Escape From New York vibes for flavor and you have some pretty similar setups and scenarios at play.
No Escape may not be the best of this branch of high-concept moviemaking, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun. The concept is uncomplicated and to the point populated by simple and easy-to-understand stock characters. While Ray Liotta’s Robbins is given some measure of depth as a soldier who killed his C.O. after being ordered to fire on innocent civilians, the rest of the cast is given little to do beyond fully embodying the archetypes they’re assigned. Stuart Wilson’s Marek is delightfully unhinged evil while Lance Henrikson gets to play the sage leader. Few of these characters are given anything of a backstory but that’s okay because this film isn’t trying to be profound. The characters we like we’re given reasons to like. The characters we hate, we’re given ample reason to hate (even if they’re incredibly entertaining). No need to muddy the waters with a backstory for this lean and to-the-point action adventure sci-fi spectacle.
I only have this film on Laserdisc so it’s rare for me to throw it on these days, so revisiting No Escape was a lot of fun. It made me long for the era when Hollywood would happily throw gobs of money at any high-concept script no matter how odd or ridiculous because there was a chance for some backend earnings with action figures, comic books, and the numerous multi-system video game tie-ins. No Escape scored a pretty great three-issue Marvel comic book that took pieces from the original Richard Herley novel (Which is great if you haven't read it) and the screenplay. It also picked up a pair of fun-but-terrible video games for Super Nintendo and Genesis that were a bastard to play through and hardly resembled the film, but still kept you occupied for a couple of hours.
And I guess that’s the best way to describe No Escape, it keeps you entertained for a couple of hours. The late great Ray Liotta got to play a convincing action hero instead of a gangster or psychopath or unhinged cop. Lance Henrickson got to use his soothing gravely voice to shed some wise words. Earnie Hudson got to be a badass (again) in his first role after The Crow. And Stuart Wilson got to deliver one of his best (of many) scene-stealing villains. Martin Campbell may be better known for his later efforts reinventing the Bond franchise twice and The Mask of Zorro, but his keen eye for exciting stunt-driven action sequences is on full display here. Sure, it’s not the greatest flick ever made, but it’s a classic piece of 90s-era high-concept movie making where if you didn’t watch it in theaters, you almost certainly rented it on tape or watched it late at night on cable.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
After touring Europe, Australia, and other markets on Blu-ray, No Escape (Flucht Aus Absolom) comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a three-disc Mediabook release from Turbine Medien. The 4K disc is pressed on a BD-100, the 1080p a BD-50, with an additional BD-50 for bonus features. After testing on multiple setups, all three discs are Region Free. Native language tracks are German but it’s easy to switch to English in the main menu or during the film itself. Inside the Mediabook is a 40-page book (in German) with essays and interviews. Using the Google Translate app on my phone it’s easy to read and well worth digging into. Each disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
There are three Mediabook artwork options and as of this writing, it looks like all three have sold out. But Turbine has been pretty good about issuing standard editions soon after these Mediabooks go OOP so we’ll keep you posted if and when those come up for pre-order.
No Escape breaks out of its DVD and Blu-ray shackles for a very pleasing 2160p Dolby Vision (and HDR10) transfer. Now, source elements wise this appears to be the same master used for the Unearthed Films Blu-ray release here in the U.S. and other Blu-rays in the rest of the world. So while it may not be pristinely clean and tidy looking, it is still quite beautiful and it picks up some welcome improvements on 4K. First off with the extra bitrate room, fine film grain is resolved much more cleanly than before. Some of that “pulsing” I spotted with the Unearthed Classics disc is still present but not as noticeable. And for some of the film’s bluescreen shots like when the prison transport monorail arrives at the beginning actually look better resolved and cleaner. Likewise when the Warden’s projected floating head pops up. Some of the optical effects still look a little dodgy, an explosion in the ocean in the third act for example, but those effects are artifacts of the era and not so much an issue with the transfer. Also nice to see is a welcome uptick in fine details; facial features, clothing, makeup and hair work, and the intricate production design all see some welcome improvements.
Dolby Vision HDR goes a long way towards aiding those black levels and the heavier film grain for the night attack sequences and scenes with heavy shadows. They’re still not quite that desired deep inky black, but they’re in much better shape overall. Since nearly every night scene is light by candles or torches, the flickering shadows look cleaner with more detail to be observed. Colors also pick up nice shading nuances with healthy skin tones and natural primaries - it does look like Turbine did their own work here. Flesh tones are a little more healthy with greenery looking more lush and vivid. Whites and contrast also pick up a few gains in that arena as well. Considering all things, this may not be a picture-perfect release, but of those available, this is definitely the superior option for collectors and fans of this flick.
As for how well the 1080p Blu-ray stacks up, it too enjoys a nice range of improvements over the U.S. disc. The same instances of speckling are apparent, it looks noticeably sharper and clearer. This is especially the case in those close-up and middle shots. Colors again are healthier as well with a less pale appearance than the disc we got here in the states. Ultimately if you're gunning for 4K or 1080p this is the set to grab up.
Turbine Medien Blu-ray
Turbine Medien Blu-ray
Turbine Medien Blu-ray
Turbine Medien Blu-ray
While the video transfer picks up a modest gain in 4K with Dolby Vision, the real star of this release is another excellent Atmos track from Turbine. Auro 3D is also an option, but I’m not set up for 13.1 so I didn’t demo that track. Also included is an effective DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that works very similar to the LPCM 2.0 mix from the Unearthed Films release. But back to that Atmos mix. From the get-go of that fiery explosive opening shot, there’s a lot more oomph and presence throughout the mix. Imaging is terrific adding extra dimension and specific sound effects into the height channels. Dialog is clean and clear throughout with Graeme Revell's score coming through beautifully.
The vertical channels work to help open up the mix and offer more spacing and atmosphere for a lot of key sequences. The Warden’s opening speech has more echo and presence into the heights. Likewise the sounds of rotors from the helicopters, and when the Outsiders attack the Insiders, the flaming arrows have a delightfully fun overhead presence as they fly into the camp. Explosions also pack quite the LFE punch putting some nice rumble in the subs. Even during quiet scenes, there's plenty of constant audio activity in the front, center, side, and rear channels. All around a great track for this flick. Now being a German release, the German audio tracks are the default so you have to switch to English in the main menu or during playback, but that's not a difficult task at all.
In addition to the great 40-page booklet of essays and interviews, Turbine gathers up some great new interviews with a variety of personalities. Between folks like Gale Anne Hurd, director Martin Campbell, screenwriter Joel Gross, and a couple other contributors, you get nearly two hours of new exclusive interviews offering a lot of insight into the genesis of the film, the production, and the release. Definitely check those out if you’re aiming to pick this set up. Also included are a pair of vintage making-of featurettes that have been plopped onto a variety of discs in the past. All bonus features are found on the bonus features disc, the 4K and Blu-ray discs have been left to max out A/V quality - which is kind of important when you have two Atmos and two Auro 3D audio tracks on each disc.
In one of the few times he actually got to play a hero, the late great Ray Liotta headlines the delightfully entertaining No Escape - or Escape From Absolom if you’re not from the States. The film is a terrific example of early 90s high-concept studio output bringing an army of top talent in for this production. Produced by Gale Anne Hurd and directed by Martin Campbell, if you missed this flick entirely or you haven’t caught it in ages, it’s time to give it another run on disc. Thanks to Turbine Medien, No Escape breaks outta the clink with a solid three-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Mediabook release. The 4K Dolby Vision transfer may not be pristine but it offers some welcome and noteworthy improvements over its Blu-ray brethren and the Atmos track really packs a wallop. Cap it off with some excellent new interviews in the bonus features package on top of a 40-page book and you have another awesome set for the shelf - Highly Recommended.