Escape from Absolom has alway been one of my guilty pleasures. A movie that isn’t necessarily good or even that memorable, but every viewing entertains me. It’s an action packed movie with some great characters and snappy dialogue that somehow looks like a DTV movie like most of the Rutger Hauer/Christopher Lambert movies released back in the day but it is easily much better.
And there’s an interesting element to this movie which was rare at the time: it used a legitimate regular actor to portray a one-man-army special forces type character usually reserved for guys like Arnie, Sly, J.C. and Seagal. Aside from Patrick Swayze in Road House I can’t really come up with actors pretending to be true martial artists on screen and kicking themselves through armies of bad men. Nowadays it’s pretty common to see guys like Matt Damon, Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson punch their way through guys twice their size. Oh B-movie king Ray Liotta, a title he didn’t have yet back then, how you paved the way…
Liotta is Robbins, a military trained guy who one day marches up to his commanding officer and shoots him in the head. Why he did it in front of an army of men instead of using his skills to stake out the guy without leaving any evidence beats me, but this and a couple of escape attempts in other prisons sends him off to Absolom: a remotely located island that functions as a prison people simply can’t escape from. This all takes place in the near future when prisons are privatized and Absolom is run by a sadistic warden. The world of Absolom is one that is inspired by Mad Max – The Road Warrior. The bad of the bad on the island are all dressed up in leathery SM-like outfits and have freaky piercings everywhere. They are the Outsiders and led by the ruthless Walter Marek. Then there’s another group of more peaceful prisoners who call themselves the Insiders and try to make as much of life as is still possible. So Robbins runs into Marek, dislikes him instantly, ends up with the Insiders and joins their cause to protect them against the Outsiders while looking for a way to “Escape From Absolom”
I love it when I can fit the title of a movie flawlessly into a sentence. Right now I’m high giving myself.
But that’s basically it: a lot of running around on an island where multiple tribes don’t get along. Add a smoke monster and you’ve got “Lost”. But what makes this B-movie so much fun then? Well first of all the action-scenes are nicely choreographed considering none of the actors are real martial artists. Liotta convinces as a special forces character even though I constantly get the idea he’s wearing mascara. But I always have that with Liotta. The tone of the script is very light and the dialogue, especially by Marek, is very witty. I loved the first scene between him and Robbins where they talk about the Outsiders’ camp as if it’s a luxury resort. A lot of effort seems to have been put in the sets and it’s awesome to actually see these real large camps in an era that would have been CG. It adds something to the atmosphere knowing that what you see on screen is real.
Also helping the movie is a stellar cast of actors who are all B-movie veterans who appear in A-movies as well. Liotta needs no introduction, but there’s also the always great Lance Henriksen, Michael Lerner, Stuart Wilson and Ghost Buster Ernie Hudson. Director of the movie is Martin Campbell who also directed two of the best Bond movies: Goldeneye and Casino Royale as well as the Zorro movies with Antonio Banderas.
As much as I loved it, it’s still a B-movie and one that will probably be forgotten over the course of time, but if you happen to stumble upon it give it a try. There’s a good chance you’ll like it.