• P.O.W. The Escape (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: July 7th, 2020.
    Director: Gideon Amir
    Cast: David Carradine, Charles R. Floyd, Make, Steve James, Phil Brock, Mako
    Year: 1986
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    P.O.W. The Escape – Movie Review:

    Also known as Behind Enemy Lines (and released on DVD as Attack Force 'Nam), Cannon Film’s 1986 production, P.O.W. The Escape, takes place in the Vietnam of 1973, which would seem to be a world filled with unlimited hand grenades. Here, Col. James Cooper (David Carradine) is tasked with leading a trio of choppers into the thick of the jungle to free some American soldiers being held at a Vietcong camp as prisoners of war. The Paris peace talks are only a few days away and he’s been told to make a show of it, but Cooper is a man who lives by his mantra – “everyone goes home.”

    The attack is launched and Cooper and his men are surprised to find the camp basically empty, only to then be attacked from the outlying jungle that surrounds the fort. A bunch of the man make it back to the choppers and escape but Cooper has to go back for a nineteen-year-old grunt named Teague (Kenneth Weaver) who got shot. As they approach their helicopter to make their escape, a Vietcong with a rocket launcher takes that chopper out. Teague is killed and Cooper is taken prisoner.

    While in the camp he befriends Johnston (Steve James) but butts heads with Sparks (Charles R. Floyd). When it turns out that the man in charge of the camp, Captain Vinh (Mako), wants to make it to Florida, he decides to use Cooper and, somewhat begrudgingly, the other prisoners to escape on his own terms and with a sizeable amount of stolen jewelry and gold. Vinh is able to get the men out of his camp but they run into trouble when he gets busted at a checkpoint. From there, the movie turns into what is basically an action-packed chase scene for the next forty-five-minutes, complete with a few expected double-crosses and betrayals and, of course, even some redemption.

    The directorial debut of Gideon Amir, the man who wrote the first four American Ninja movies, P.O.W. The Escape is about as derivative as a war movie gets. It is pretty amusing to see David Carradine, draped in an American flag and carrying a .50 caliber machine gun, storming a heavily fortified hill with some help from Steve James, but this movie is nothing if not predictable. That said, it’s also pretty entertaining if you’re into Cannon Films’ over-the-top eighties output you’ll appreciate the movie despite its many and obvious flaws. The action is pretty much non-stop, and while it doesn’t have as much impact as it should due to the complete lack of character development, lots of stuff explodes and lots of people get shot. It’s lowest common denominator cinema, to be sure, but it delivers pretty much exactly what you expect it to.

    Carradine, however, does not make a very good lead here. The man has no charisma in this film at all, making even the notoriously wooden Chuck Norris look positively dynamic by comparison. He shows no emotion, he doesn’t really react to anything, he’s just sort of there. Steve James, on the other hand, is his typically likeable self, making you wish he’d led the film rather than Carradine. Mako makes for a decent enough villain here, though he’s clearly typecast, while one and done actor Charles R. Floyd is decent enough as Sparks.

    P.O.W. The Escape – Blu-ray Review:

    Scorpion Releasing brings P.O.W. The Escape to Blu-ray from a “new digital master” framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Taking up just under 22GBs of space on the 25GB disc, the transfer actually looks like it was taken from an old digital master. Compression artifacts pop up from time to time, with even some minor macbroblocking evident in a couple of the larger explosions, and there’s minor print damage noticeable throughout. Detail definitely rises above standard definition levels but never hits the highs that Blu-ray can offer. Colors look good most of the time but there are a few shots where things look faded.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track sounds pretty solid. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are balanced well enough. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note, the score has a bit of depth to it as do the sound effects. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Scorpion has done a pretty nice job putting together some extra features for this release, starting with a new interview with director Gideon Amir that runs for fifteen-minutes. He speaks here about how and why he decided to get into filmmaking, how he got his start doing commercials and industrial films where he learned on the job, meeting Avi Kleinberger and co-writing P.O.W. and American Ninjas together as well as doing some other work together, how they hooked up with Cannon Films, the success of Missing In Action leading to similar films, his personal experiences working with Golan and Globus, how the story of P.O.W. is an homage to Vera Cruz, what it was like working with David Carradine and the other cast members and more.

    Screenwriter James Bruner is interviewed next in a seven-minute piece that covers how he was hired to do re-writes on P.O.W. The Escape and what all that involved. He talks about how Vietnam War pictures were a big deal at the time, working with Gideon Amir as well as with Golan and Globus, how he got into writing in the first place, how he started writing action and martial arts films, what working on P.O.W. The Escape was like and his thoughts on the movie over all.

    The third and final interview is with stunt coordinator Steve Lambert. Here, over fourteen-minutes, he talks about how he landed the gig working on the film, his previous work for Cannon prior to embarking on this, what it was like working on set in The Philippines and how unusual it was to work on a movie outside of the United States, how he didn’t really know anybody on set when he started working on the picture but how he enjoyed working with everyone, how Cannon gave the team two months to get the movie in the can, doing a lot of second unit work on the picture, what went into pulling off some of the more complex stunts that were on display in the film, having to have specific sets built to pull those stunts off and more.

    Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature as well as bonus trailers for Delta Force, The Dogs Of War, Lone Wolf McQuade and Hell Camp (a.k.a. Opposing Force). Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    P.O.W. The Escape – The Final Word Review:

    P.O.W. The Escape provides plenty of completely brainless action to complement the seriously bad performance from its leading man. Thankfully, Steve James is here, and that counts for something, but keep your expectations in check. This is entertaining enough on a rainy Sunday afternoon but not up there with the Cannon classics. Scorpion Releasing’s Blu-ray offers the film in a less than perfect transfer but with decent audio and some nice extra features. Cannon completists will appreciate this.

    Click on the images below for full sized P.O.W. The Escape Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Thanks for reminding me that this isn't worth it; I remember watching it on VHS about 10 years ago and it's one of those movies that you forget about as soon as its over.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      I wanted to like it.