Jailbreak (2017)

Posted in Reviews by - October 08, 2017
Jailbreak (2017)

Jailbreak forms part of a cultural renaissance in Cambodia following the slow rebirth of its local film industry after years of political upheaval, war and bloodshed. Interestingly, although this multilingual film is proudly and predominantly spoken in the Khmer language (with moments of French and English), it has taken a mostly European-trained crew – including Italian-born director, Jimmy Henderson, and UK-based stunt performer, Jean-Paul Ly – to put Cambodian action cinema on the map. The country’s lack of cinematic infrastructure does little to dampen the creativity or enthusiasm shown on screen, and the team do a fantastic job on a minuscule budget. The whole thing is shot on only one camera, and despite not having a native stunt team to draw upon, that doesn’t stop a whole host of untrained extras jumping in and being convincingly punched and pummelled, kicked and thrown in long takes of awesome, flowing action. The premise, its use of blades and confined spaces, and references to indigenous martial arts styles (at one point, Dara Our’s character is at pains to point out that the style he is using is not Muay Thai but actually Bokator, a Cambodian self-defence), are obvious traits that the film borrows from The Raid. But the comparison only goes so far, because this is a much lighter, breezier watch; albeit one that still packs a punch when it needs to. Jean-Paul Ly flies in from Paris to assist a special ops team consisting of real-life Bokator fighters Dara Our, Tharoth Sam and Dara Phang, who are called upon to ensure the safe passage of a flamboyant, high-profile criminal known as Playboy (Savin Phillip) into the cells of a Cambodian prison. Once inside, the inmates overrun the joint, barricading the cops inside and forcing them to fight for their lives. Meanwhile, a katana-waving dominatrix assassin (played by Céline Tran) has her own plans, leading her Butterfly gang of female fighters into the chaos in a rival bid to spring Playboy from his confines. Long-time Ly collaborator Laurent Plancel also drops in towards the end for a neat one-on-one showdown because, well, why not? This is a fun fight film which shows great potential for its cast and crew.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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