Escape Velocity (1999)



Patrick Bergin stars in this interesting if somewhat drawn out sci-fi thriller from director Lloyd A. Simandl. Metrodome UK R0 DVD.

The Film

In the near future, Carter is awaiting execution in a military prison for his part in the massacre of a deep-space colony. He is sprung and taking his gang with him, they steal a small fighter and set off into space. 15 years later their ship is recovered by an observatory ship near a dying star, run by commander Cal (Patrick Bergin), Billie and her teenage daughter Veronica. They unfreeze him from his stasis and he lies to them about how he was the innocent victim of a mutiny. When he is caught trying to rape Veronica he reveals his true evil side and plans to unfreeze the rest of his crew...

Written by Paul A. Birkett (who has gone on to a career writing and directing DTV films, including Alien Tornado (2011)), Escape Velocity has a minimal plot - the vast majority is set aboard the isolated space ship with just Carter and the three civilians on board. This does mean that there are no unnecessary subplots or deviations that can overcomplicate other genre titles, but it leaves the film feeling very slowly paced and it does drag at times (it feels like a 60 minute teleplay that has been padded out to feature length). After the long build-up, the second half of the story follows a standard rape and revenge format, although unusually with the mother taking responsibility for most of the revenge in the film's action packed climax.

The amount of time to reach this point has at least given us a little characterisation which makes the climactic scenes more enjoyable and genuinely tense - as a low budget film it is easy to see the script heading for a happy or nihilistic ending. Given the spare time available in the script though, it is surprising that no explanation is given to the rather glaring question of why the massive ship is run by such a small crew, nor why it was a good idea to bring along a teenage girl and essentially keep her in isolation for two years when she seems to serve no purpose aboard. The film would also have been more interesting if the truth about Carter had been kept from the viewer for more of the running time.

Director Lloyd A. Simandl is better known for his soft-core adult themed productions (including the long running Bound Heat series) but surprisingly this film is actually shot quite seriously with a minimum of exploitation elements. The sets have the typical low-budget sci-fi spaceship look with a mix of industrial corridors and small rooms, although it works well and there are enough different locations to keep things interesting. Editing is decent and the CGI effects are not bad but only used sparingly to provide establishing shots.

For a film relying on its small cast for most of the runtime, it does fortunately boast some good acting - Patrick Bergen is well cast as the ship's commander while Wendy Crewson is particularly good as Billie, looking genuinely angry in the climactic revenge scenes. The best performance though is from Canadian actor Peter Outerbridge who seems to be really relishing his part as Carter and manages to convey a genuinely evil character without ever going over the top. Michelle Beaudoin as Veronica is never really believable as a na´ve eighteen year-old, although this is more down to poor casting than her acting.

A rather drawn out mid-section and some undeveloped plot points make Escape Velocity rather hard to get into, but it builds up to an enjoyable and action packed climax, made more meaningful by the character build-up and aided by some good acting, along with direction that looks better than expected. Requiring a little patience, when it gets going this is enjoyable and worth watching.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Patrick Bergin - an Irish actor best known for his role in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)
Directed by anyone interesting? Lloyd A. Simandl - directed a variety of low budget films including Lethal Target (1999) and Deadly Engagement (2003) before moving onto to softcore bondage films like Caligula's Spawn (2009)
Any gore or violence ? Some lightly bloody deaths.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? Of interest to DTV fans with some patience.


The DVD
Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 academy. Colour
Picture quality is good with plenty of detail and clear colours.
Shot for video premiere so the academy ratio is correct.
Audio English stereo - sounds fine.
Subtitles None
Extras
  • Trailer
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Available in the US from York Home Video
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English.

Summary

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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 29th November 2014.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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