Picks and Pans Review: No Escape

updated 05/02/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ray Liotta, Michael Lerner

Prison movies usually have a simple plot: brilliant, unbreakable inmate is pitted against evil warden. But this futuristic flick, while exceedingly simpleminded at times, could be the head scratcher of the season.

The year is 2022. Liotta, a former Marine unjustly convicted of murdering his commanding officer, is the rebellious prisoner whom the ruthless warden (Lerner) plans to destroy. Rather than sending him to some kind of high-tech hot box, though, Lerner boots the bad egg to a top-secret jungle island where no one leaves alive.

Liotta discovers two civilizations there. The first, the Outsiders, is composed of evil Road Warrior wannabes with bad makeup and worse manners. Liotta manages to escape these savages and find safe haven with the Insiders, peaceful yet simple folk living in a community seemingly built by the set designer for Gilligan's Island. Although he remains intent on escaping, Liotta becomes involved in the Insiders' struggle to defend themselves from the aggressive Outsiders.

The narrative from here heads into a welter of ludicrous and confusing subplots. The leader of the Outsiders (Stuart Wilson) elicits a few laughs with his psychotic calmness, and Kevin J. O'Connor is amusing as the island entrepreneur who is intent on buying Liotta's boots before he dies. But virtually every other character is sketchily drawn.

The violence, however, is vivid. One guy gets his head cut off so cleanly it stays on his neck. Another takes a flaming arrow in the mouth, a fate that might seem enviable by the end of the movie. At nearly two hours, No Escape is cruel and unusual punishment. (R)

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