Breakout From Oppression (1985)

Directed by: Karen Yang
Written by: Wong Ging-Toi & Choh Wan
Producer: Richard Chen
Starring: Luk Siu-Fan, Alan Tam, Cheung Foo-Mei, Lam Joi-Pau & Wa Lun


Continuing the examination of IFD Films & Arts catalogue that included horror, action, thrillers and fantasy of the late 70s/early 80s coming out of Taiwan, for a breakdown of the basic history of IFD, please visit the series debut review of Wolfen Ninja in addition to visiting the other highlighted movies Deadly Darling, Fury In Red and Commando Fury. IFD were as it turned out kind again and again to Taiwan filmmakers but perhaps more so to Yang Chia-Yun (credited as Karen Yang in IFD's credits) as evident by the pick up of mentioned Deadly Darling (aka The Lady Avenger) and Pink Force Warriors (aka Women Warriors of Kinmen). Breakout From Oppression is the re-title of her 1984 revenge thriller Exposed To Danger starring Luk Siu-Fan (as usual, credited as Fonda Lynn by IFD) and Alan Tam, presented largely untampered with aside from providing the keen buyers of the worldwide market with a dub. Compared to Joseph Lai's ninja products and these real and largely unaltered movies, I doubt the buying frenzy was there but I also strongly believe the quality out of Taiwan was something Lai was keen on presenting through his own brand, whether it would be a financial success for him or not. And Breakout From Oppression remains a brand of quality worthy to be in Lai's hands and hopefully through these reviews, there's been and will be examples of the class that could be connected to IFD. We've seen better stuff out of the revenge mold but Yang possesses a keen eye for the familiar beats needed and she elicits audience reactions from suspense, violent aftermaths, sneaky violence and full on gory acts.

After having served a 12 year sentence for murder, Fonda Chao (Luk Siu-Fan) is offered the position as assistant editor at a newspaper. Eye brows are definitely raised, both in the male stuff (primarily Alan Tam's Simon) but also the jealous, female staff that immediately develop hatred towards Fonda. Some more than others. Some even possessing hatred with a mortal twist and Fonda's rehabilitation starts going backwards as she's terrorized...

Of note is of course again IFD's eagerness to respect the original 1984 production but rightfully so the company decided to cut a few minutes of unnecessary stretches of film mainly dealing with Fonda's backstory that is made very clear in retained footage anyway. It's a careful editing job, benefiting all parties involved. Although Luk Siu-Fan's main character and the actress gets to work with a lot of standardized beats and Breakout From Oppression really feels recycled, it's a credit to the actress working with Yang effectively again that we're on board to the quite grave extent we are. Here's a character that seems innocent enough and eager to rehabilitate, innocent or not in terms of her past crime. Unfairly getting judged and thrown around mentally, no wonder a potential snap may happen. Actress Luk has the distress down and is distressing to watch although the more quiet beats from Deadly Darling would've benefited a few scenes here. A romance subplot with Alan Tam doesn't feel very convincing either (I blame the male actor) but you quickly realize that Yang Chia-Yun is working genre cinema here and intends to push where it can hurt. Not overall hurt the movie, despite elements doing so. That's a filmmaker thinking properly in this case.

Yang's greatest tools is atmosphere, the lead in to surprising acts of bloodshed, bodily harm and violence. Breakout From Oppression doesn't want to lean on a single train of thought here and mix of scenes such as the prison flashback where Fonda is cut by a knife embedded in her soap and food spiked with glass ending up in the mouths of a child are incredibly effective in a subtle way the acting at times is not.

The feel is right, the grit and even scares (leading to disgusting aftermath of violence and torture) and when the main story-mix of Fonda going insane while the actual truth lies in front of her and us an audience take center stage, Yang's work is really coming together. Familiarity is a tool best used to engage an audience here, especially when it comes to unfair deaths and capping it with a moment right out of the first Friday The 13th feels just right. The right kind of release. The last sentence also becomes the reasoning for making first Exposed To Danger and later re-adjusting it for larger release as Breakout From Oppression.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson