Escaping Paradise (2022)

Rating: C

Dir: Paul Tanter
Star: Deji LaRay, Simon Phillips, Shayla Hale, Kylah Dela Peña

For their fifth anniversary, Floyd (LaRay) and Zena (Hale) go on a trip to the Philippines, staying in a luxury resort near Cebu City. At a local restaurant, they meet friendly and wealthy British expat Kane (Phillips) and his very quiet other half, Nihla (Dela Peña): “She doesn’t speak English,” says Kane. Their new pals take Floyd and Zena touristing, but it quickly becomes apparent that Kane has a dark side. Floyd suspects him of being involved in the death of a bar girl, and also that Nihla is less a partner than an unwilling captive. Eventually, the couple decide to go to the police with their suspicions. Big mistake, since the local chief is in Kane’s pocket, and they quickly find themselves without passports or allies in a strange, increasingly unfriendly land.

There’s something of a throwback feel to this, harking back to the early seventies when Roger Corman’s New World Pictures set up shop in the Philippines, taking advantage of the cheap production costs and exotic setting. This can’t quite make its mind up whether to be an advert for or against visiting the region. Some scenes appear present solely as an advert for the local tourist board: “Isn’t that a lovely waterfall?”. On the other hand, the overall experience of Floyd and Zena – they’ll likely be checking “Somewhat satisfied” on their customer survey form – hardly inspires much confidence about a trip there. That said, it’s notable that the chief villain is another foreigner, and the majority of the local population are depicted sympathetically.

I’ll confess to rolling my eyes when it was announced that Floyd was ex-military, an almost lazy excuse to give him the very particular set of skills he’ll need to get him and Zena out of the mess in which they land. This stands in contrast to the similarly-themed No Escape, where Owen Wilson was an engineer, as he tried to get his family out of an overseas scrape – though he did have Pierce Brosnan to help. I think I prefer the “everyman” approach, since you know Floyd is going to be able to punch, kick, stab and shoot his way out of almost every dangerous situation.

My main issue though is likely the couple’s wholesale blindness to every warning sign about Kane: this and Do Not Disturb would be a great double-bill on the perils of making friends on holiday. There’s an almost token effort at declining his offers, and then it’s all forgotten, even as he beats up small, local children. “Is that the time? We really must be going,” would have been the correct reaction, not “Sure, why don’t I abandon my wife and go with you to a strip-club.” [Chris’s derisive snorts were sufficient commentary to establish her opinion on that topic.] From a technical viewpoint, it’s well-enough handled to pass muster, and I will say, I was never bored. On the other hand, was I ever particularly engaged?