Review: Jailbreak (2017) — Impressive action sequences but lacks substance

jailbreak movie still

Jailbreak ការពារឧក្រិដ្ឋជន

Movie review

Directed and co-written by Jimmy Henderson (The Forest Whispers, Hanuman), Jailbreak is a Cambodian action flick about four police officers (three locals and a French) escort a gang member simply known as Playboy (Savin Phillip) to prison. It’s assumed to be an easy task but little did they know, hardcore criminals in the prison are offered a lot of money to murder Playboy. Even if the cops and prison guards decide to leave Playboy to die, they’d still have to survive and fight their way out against dozens of prisoners — including one who eats human flesh and one who simply enjoys killing.

Protagonists highly skilled in martial arts, trapped in a place filled baddies and they ain’t got guns — the plot certainly reminds me of the likes of The Raid (2011) and for it to be comparable to that action masterpiece, Jailbreak‘s fight choreography has to be very impressive… and it is. Led by actors Jean-Paul Ly (stuntman in Doctor Strange, Lucy, Now You See Me 2) and Dara Our (The Forest Whispers, Hanuman) as two of the police officers, the combat sequences are spectacular. Many of these sequences are group fights and they’re filmed with long, single-take, tracking, wide angle shots — displaying all the brutal action that fans of the genre can appreciate. If the sound work wasn’t so flat, I believe the action would’ve felt even better.

Although the local martial art of Bokator is blatantly highlighted in the film, some of the cool moves do seem similar to Tony Jaa’s Muay Boran techniques in his films like Ong Bak (2003) with the frequent flying knees and elbows to the head. Regardless, the choreography is just incredible, particularly the riot fight scenes where dozens of characters fight at the same time and the camera just goes around filming everything that’s going on in the place. Henderson was so good in directing the action that even former porn star Celine Tran a.k.a. Katsuni, who plays Madame Butterfly in the film, was able to give a very convincing one-on-one fight scene against MMA fighter Tharoth Sam, who portrays one of the cops.

While the fight sequences are absolutely enjoyable to watch, the film doesn’t really engage its audience to care about the protagonists. There’s no proper character development and yet it attempts to force some unnecessary internal conflict and love triangle drama. Strangely, I find myself caring for the cowardly Playboy more than any of the try-hard heroes as he has more personality than the others. The acting performances and script are poor. It’s corny with odd, off-placed humour. Some scenes that cuts away don’t even have followups as characters somehow survive almost certain deaths off screen. I also didn’t really get a sense of the prison’s layout. The characters can easily get separated and bump into each other head on. And for unknown reasons, the inmates never once tried to literally jailbreak despite already overtaken the prison. It’s difficult to believe or be engaged by the situation when too many things just don’t sense.

Apart from the action sequences, Jailbreak is basically an absurd mess. But despite its mad flaws, the movie is never boring and I was kept entertained throughout the film by all of its action and some of its seemingly intentionally dumb moments.

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Mid-credit scene: There’s a mid-credit scene to show the fate of one of the characters followed by the remainder of the closing credits with the NG takes and behind-the-scenes rolling. Unfortunately not many of these footages were NG’s from fight or stunt scenes.

What I would’ve named the film: “The Raid: SPL 2”

Malaysian censorship: It’s rated ’18’ here and perhaps that’s why the film’s extreme violence and profanity might remain uncensored.

Verdict: The fight scenes are very good but everything else isn’t.

Rating: 3 / 5

jailbreak 2017 movie poster malaysiaCountry / Languages: Cambodia / Khmer, English, French

Genre: Action, comedy
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Jimmy Henderson
Screenwriters: Jimmy Henderson, Michael Hodgson
Cast: Jean-Paul Ly, Dara Our, Savin Phillip, Céline Tran, Tharoth Sam, Sisowath Siriwudd

Malaysia Release Date: 2 November 2017
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: Zookeeper Media Sdn Bhd
Production: Kongchak Pictures

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