An Enthralling Escape

March 20, 2024

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3 stars

 The poster shows a young bikini-clad blonde toting a machine gun.

The description calls Escape the story of “ten sex-trafficked young women … taken from an island resort by a violent criminal gang for shipping to an overseas client.”

It all sounds tawdry and exploitative, but don’t believe any of it. Yes, there are women in bikinis who get kidnapped by a ruthless (and creepy) gang of criminals, and some of them fire guns before the film ends. But thanks to writer/director Howard J. Ford, Escape is nothing cheap or salacious; it’s all about empowerment—and bloody, well-deserved revenge.

The story opens with best friends Carla and Tamsin (Sarah Alexandra Marks and Ksenia Islamova) walking into their posh beachfront hotel room, absolutely giddy with anticipation of the week ahead of them. The joy they ooze as they dance around the room is so infectious you can feel the anger growing in the back of your mind because you know something terrible is about to happen to them. Although watching those bad things happen is disturbing, Carla, Tamsin, and their fellow captives soon learn they don’t need rescuing. All they need is for us to cheer from the audience as they kick bad guy ass, which is not as easy as it sounds. To Ford’s credit, he not only stages some terrific fight sequences in Escape, but he manages to keep the tension cranked up to 11 during those fights and, more importantly, in the calmer times between. 

The cast of Escape helps raise the bar for making the movie so exciting. Sometimes, the bad guys may be a bit cartoony, but each actor treats their part like they are playing Shakespeare. Sean Cronin (Original Gangster) is riveting as Andras, the leader of the trafficking gang. He’s an intimidating alpha male psycho who gets his kicks, making the young women squirm, but turns into a weak and subservient wimp when the girls start to fight back, and the men he works for show him who the real alpha males are.

The actresses in Escape, even those with limited screen time, also give fine performances that you need to pay attention to as the story unfolds because the story weaves in and out of their lives in unexpected but essential ways. As the film begins, Sarah Alexandra Marks seems the unlikeliest of fighters as she plays Karla; if asked to pick survivors 15 minutes into the story, her name would not be on the list. Then, just wait to see what Karla/Marks does.


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