Some films really only exist to showcase their painstakingly choreographed fight scenes. Following in the footsteps of The Raid, Jailbreak is one such film, but while director Jimmy Henderson earns a gold star for fisticuffs, he could have tried a little harder to hide his disinterest in any scene that doesn’t involve a room full of dudes beating the living crap out of each other.
The story? Doesn’t much matter. A Parisian cop joins a police unit that have been tasked with transporting crime boss Playboy to his cell in the high security Prei Klaa prison in Cambodia. However, Playboy has admitted that he isn’t the real top dog, and in so doing, he has betrayed The Butterflies, a gang of beautiful female assassins lead by a psycho with a samurai sword. Playboy is now a wanted man and once the cops get him to his cell, the prison inmates escape their own cells in order to catch and kill him.
It’s a ludicrous setup riddled with plot holes, but efficient at getting to the aforementioned fight scenes. Trapping four cops trained in the martial art of Bokatar in a prison full of criminals means a brutal brawl is around every corner and down every corridor. Once they kick off, they rarely let up for a moment. The choreography is constantly impressive and the cinematography often inventive. It doesn’t always work; a POV shot during one of the fight scenes feels like an experiment gone wrong, but when it does, it’s brutally effective. Capturing the fights in long takes is doubly remarkable as the film was shot with one camera and with non-professional stunt people.
Jailbreak works wonders with its limited budget, but that is again mostly because its fight scenes are so striking. Unfortunately, in other areas, the cracks show a little too often to make the film wholly successful. The sound design seems notably flat so it never convinces that we are truly trapped in a large prison. Without establishing shots and a better use of space, it becomes very difficult to believe that the heroes are really trapped in a massive prison riot. Every corridor, every cell, and every room of the prison feels the same. The setting becomes too familiar too quickly and there is no sense of the geography of the prison they are in. That leads to characters bumping into each other, but it all appears like random encounters, as we have no idea where all the characters are in relation to each other.
Some of the performances are decent, but dialogue is not the writers or director’s speciality. There are some laughs even in the middle of fight scenes and a generally campy tone that sets this apart from the darker, more serious style of The Raid. It aims for fun over a real sense of jeopardy or investing its characters with any kind of emotive back stories.
Overall, Jailbreak is an impressive effort and will likely appeal to fans of the fight scenes in The Raid. Just don’t expect to be as impressed by anything outside of the kinetic, expertly choreographed clashes.
JAILBREAK / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JIMMY HENDERSON / SCREENPLAY: JIMMY HENDERSON, MICHAEL HODGSON / STARRING: CELINE TRAN, JEAN-PAUL LY, LAURENT PLANCEL / RELEASE DATE: TBA
Expected Rating: 8