Picked up and distributed by Joseph Lai's IFD in 1984 and released as Escape To High Risks, originally this Ching Gong written and directed prison/rebel resistance actioner came out in Taiwan as Escape To Freedom in 1982. Releasing it intact seemingly and preserving The 14 Amazons co-director's credit (IFD gave Benny Ho aka Godfrey Ho writing credit though), Escape To High Risks was clearly not hand picked by IFD but rather part of the package deal of Taiwanese movies they acquired. Clearly not putting aside dull material and looking to make a buck internationally on all property of theirs, they couldn't elevate Ching Gong's very dull material when presented complete like this. Sometimes you wish a ninja was around...
The very bare plot concerns rebel Alan Tan (Roc Tien) being sent to Japanese occupied territories and the Japanese run Black Jail. Rumoured to be a place no one can escape from, Tan and fellow rebels hatch a plan to quickly get out of there and join up with the resistance and their families once more...
While every acclaimed director can experience a lull, a lack of inspiration and creativity, it's somewhat sad to see Ching Gong stray THIS far from the quality of his Shaw Brothers days. Not merely talking the fact that Escape To High Risks is not a big budget film but it's barely an outline that went into production. Taiwan was a fairly active movie making machine of various genres at this time and of course the Chinese versus Japanese angle was common material on film but channelling this and the prison movie in one generates merely tired, flimsy material.
Shot with a very poor sense of scope, of course the 2-3 locations look grounded and earthy in a suitable way but that doesn't translate to a gritty, dangerous aura. There's ruthless prison guards but no sense of teeth aside from Leung Yee's bald and big prison guard attempting rape and cutting up a poor woman that is then left for the dogs to take a bit of. Which in itself leads to a sequence suggesting he's now haunted by his victim and it's one of THE examples of the movie not being put together very well.
Changing of locale to underground hideouts and reuniting of family that then leads to a big confrontation with the Japanese on the train tracks, the movie may make more noise by this point but is almost yawn inducingly stale. There was an tired aspect from the beginning, something IFD could never save but investments sometimes pay off with the right cover art, echoing of genres and exploitation. Even if the movie sold is a poor showcase for this mostly exciting Taiwanese era in their cinema history.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson