Cambodia’s answer to The Raid?
Actor Jean-Paul Ly revealed to us that the Cambodian film industry is very young. It’s first modern cinema opened only five years ago and has only made one prior action movie, by the same director; Jimmy Henderson. He mentioned that the film was very low budget but contains a great deal of heart.
The film concerns law enforcement team who must supervise the delivery of an infamous criminal, known as Playboy (Savin Phillip), to a maximum security prison. However there are outside forces that want the prisoner dead and organise a full scale jail break to ensure it happens. The team are trapped in the prison and must fight to survive.
Let’s get the most important thing out if the way first, the fight sequences are amazing. They are beautifully choreographed with violent exchanges paced at breakneck speed. The moves are impressive with lots of kicks, throws and some black widow style climbing up people. The heroes are balletic in their abilities. The fights are wonderfully filmed with lots of long takes and some very Raid-esque snap pans and tilts which never distract from the action.
It’s excellent to see women are afforded near equal chance to get involved in the kicking of asses. Some of the best moves of the film come from Tharoth Sam, the MMA fighter. There is an unfortunate moment in which she is bettered and has to be rescued by a man from sexual violence, but otherwise she’s the equal of any one she’s pitted against. The outtakes at the end demonstrate that she is also an excellent comedic actress, which could have been utilised in the film.
More kick ass ladies can be found amongst the antagonists. The Butterflies are the all-female gang that want Playboy dead, even if they have to break into the jail and do it themselves. They wear leather pants and are filmed somewhat gratuitously. This is particularly frustrating as, with the exception of their katana wielding leader, Madame Butterfly (Céline Tran), they aren’t given a chance to actually do anything. Butterfly does handle her katana well though and is able to give Tharoth her best fight of the film.
To be blunt, not all the performances are great. Emotions tend to be either big and farcical or non-existent. Anytime English is spoken, it’s fairly embarrassing, particularly the aforementioned katana wielding leader of The Butterflies. But the physicality is impressive to say the least. Everyone looks convincing in their fight scenes and when striding down the prison corridors in slow motion.
The film doesn’t take itself very seriously. There’s a sense of humour throughout which sometimes works and at other times is pure cringe. Playboy himself tends to spend most of his time screaming and running away in a flamboyant fashion. Add some nineties style slow motion and constant whooshing to every punch thrown and you get something that’s very cheesy but undeniably fun.
I doubt Jailbreak will be the same breakout success as The Raid, which was exactly what action cinema needed at the time it was released. It is, however, a lot of fun and contains some of the best fight scenes I’ve seen this year. I hope it does find its audience, as it’s clearly well intentioned and I’d love to see more work from this team.
3 / 5
Paul Salt is the co-host of One Good Thing.