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The Forgotten Ray Liotta Action Film That’s Worth a Visit
... if you can find it.
Before I get started this week, I wanted to wish you all a Happy Memorial Day, and thank all of the brave veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Today is a day for honoring them.
Ray Liotta passed away last week at the age of 67, and while family, friends, and fans mourn the loss, some of the actor’s most notable roles are being remembered online. His signature one, of course, was as real-life mobster Henry Hill in the critically acclaimed 1990 Martin Scorsese film, Goodfellas.
Liotta starred in several other solid films over the years (including Cop Land, Unlawful Entry, and Identity), but one role that a lot of people have forgotten (or perhaps never knew) about was his brief stint as an action hero in 1994’s No Escape.
The movie didn’t do particularly well at the box office (perhaps due to minimal advertising), and though it picked up some fans on home media, it (as best I can tell) has never been released on any streaming services. It’s not even in Comcast’s database. In fact, the only “on-demand” platform I’ve ever seen it offered on is YouTube, and that version appears to be from its foreign release titled “Escape from Absolom”.
That’s a shame, because the movie’s actually quite good — well written, well acted, and visually appealing. And believe it or not, Liotta is very convincing as an action star. The film’s definitely worth checking out.
The dystopian, sci-fi, Mad Max-like flick takes place in the far-off year of 2022 (ha-ha), when the “international prison system” has become a lucrative business operated by private corporations. With that privatization has come a lack of public oversight, which one warden has taken advantage of by setting up and running his own secret, undeveloped, closely monitored (by him), inescapable island where he sends the most dangerous prisoners.
Over the years, the island’s occupants (at least the ones who survived the initial helicopter drop-off) have broken into two main tribes: the Insiders and the Outsiders.
The Insiders are led by a visionary character known as “The Father” (Lance Henriksen). They’re trying to live a peaceful, redemptive, and productive existence as a community.
The much larger Outsiders are savages, led by a man named Marek (played brilliantly by Stuart Wilson). He’s an intellectual and a sociopath who rules with an iron fist. The group survives through violence and the occasional raiding of the Insiders’ compound.
Liotta plays ex-Marine John Robbins, who’s in prison for life for murdering a commanding officer in cold blood (there’s more to that story, of course). After successful escape attempts from other prisons, and failing to comply with his new warden’s rules, he’s deemed a prime candidate for the island. There, he’s dropped off, smack dab in the middle of the tribal conflict.
The Outsiders capture and punish Robbins, but eventually court him upon realizing he’s a skilled fighter. Robbins, however, has other plans, and lots of action (including a great chase scene) ensues from there.
There aren’t many online clips from the movie, but the trailer should give you a good feel for it:
Watching No Escape (as I did again this weekend for the first time in a while), one has to wonder why Liotta didn’t end up in more action roles during his career. Sure, this particular film didn’t dazzle at the box office, but Hollywood assuredly recognized the actor’s talent for the genre.
Maybe the choice was his. While the heavy stunts in films like No Escape (prior to the CGI explosion) were of course performed by professional stand-ins, such work was (and still is) physically demanding of actors and actresses, and perhaps it just wasn’t to Liotta’s liking. After all, he was already 40 years old when No Escape was released.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad he signed on to this particular action flick. It’s a gem.
RIP Mr. Liotta.
Are you one of the relatively few who’ve also seen No Escape? Do you have favorite Ray Liotta movie — perhaps one that didn’t get much attention at the time? Tell me about it in an email or in the comment section below.
Proud of my boy.
Obligatory Dog Shot
Sunshine on her shoulders makes her happy.
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I honestly can’t explain why I’d never owned John (“Cougar” back then) Mellencamp’s 1985 “Scarecrow” album until I spotted it last week at a used record store in Estes Park. I’ve always liked a number of songs off it, and even had a couple of them on 45 singles as a kid (“Small Town” and “Lonely Ol' Night”).
Scarecrow was a huge commercial success, peaking at #2 on the U.S. chart, with three top 10 singles.
Mellencamp and his band reportedly spent months playing a hundred rock and roll songs from the 60s, before going into the studio to record the album, and the influence can definitely be heard on the tracks, along with the singer’s rugged lyrics.
It’s a great offering, and I’m glad it’s now part of my collection.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!