By: John M Jerva
This has certainly been a crowded week for action fans as a deluge of choices have arrived this week to satisfy hardcore cravings. We’ve had One Shot with Scott Adkins, Dangerous with Scott Eastwood, Jesse V Johnson’s Hell Hath No Fury and now one of the most ridiculous guilty pleasures you’ll watch this year. I’ve saved the best, or I mean the worse, for last. I’m not sure yet.
The latest film I watched this week was Uncorked Entertainment’s unapologetically throwback style action movie Escape From Death Block 13. Starring once again is the late, great Charles Bronson’s very own doppelgänger Robert Bronzi or who I like to call the Eastern European Bronson. Bronzi has starred in a host of trashy DTV action pics like Death Kiss, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood and the upcoming The Gardener which also stars Gary Daniels. Bronzi has clearly made a career for himself looking like the legendary action star and it definitely nips at the nostalgia factor in action fans. Bronzi will never win any acting awards or the person who dubs him but he certainly has a throwback style action film presence. Not to mention, he has one of the greatest mustaches in action cinematic history.
Bronzi is back in his latest C grade exploitation action extravaganza aptly titled Escape From Death Block 13 and even the title alone just screams 70’s or 80’s action film goodness. Just watching the trailer or looking at the cover art tells you what kind of film the audience is getting.
Here Bronzi stars as Mick, a foreigner who travels to America to find out how his brother died. Upon arriving in the US, Mick visits his brother’s former employer Renda played with a gleeful sleaziness by Nicholas Turturto. Renda is clearly a snake and a dirty one at that and when Mick arrives, with a ball peen hammer of all things, Renda definitely doesn’t roll out the welcome wagon for him.
It’s obvious that Mick’s brother was killed under nefarious circumstances and Renda will do his best to keep it a secret. A brawl ensues where Mick must defend himself but things don’t go well and he’s arrested for extortion and attempted murder. Now that’s a bad day.
When arrested, Mick is approached by Detective Borelli (Lyindaa Russell) and agent Langley (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) who want Mick to go undercover at the dreaded Pleasant Hill Penitentiary to expose some seedy shenanigans courtesy of the equally seedy warden played by Debbie Scaletta. Pleasant Hill is anything but and Mick is going to realize that this is essentially hell on earth with the worst convicts on the face of the planet.
Upon arrival, we are introduced to multiple way out there characters like Bunyan (Chris Hahn), Tex (Tim Lovelace) and Wizard. Everywhere you turn, there’s a missing link waiting around the corner which makes Mick’s job extremely difficult.
Enraged by his brother’s death and committed to stopping the corrupt warden at any cost, Mick devises a suicidal scheme to break out amid a riot and exact his vengeance in a hailstorm of bullets and explosions in spectacular drive-in theater fashion.
Escape from Death Block 13 was helmed by Gary Jones and this is the type of low budgeted film that has a certain type of charm. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I’ll keep on trying. The special effects are horrendous, the acting is dreadful and the fight choreography leaves something to be desired. Let’s just say that Scott Adkins doesn’t have anything to worry about.
In the lead, Bronzi is wooden and flat as usual but like I said, he still has a presence due to the fact that he bares an uncanny resemblance to Bronson. He has a distinct retro 70’s action look that is unrivaled and even though his roles are one dimensional, he still manages to carry a movie on his shoulders. Let’s just say that watching a Bronzi film leaves you with a warm, tingly nostalgic feeling that is welcome. You know this is a bad film but it’s a soooooo bad it’s glorious at the same time.
The first half action elements consist mostly of mediocre beat downs and they are certainly rough around the edges. The sound effects are stellar though as every time someone lands a blow, it sounds like multiple bones are breaking. Bronzi gets to flex his tough guy persona to the max and routinely gets down and dirty. Like I said though, if you’re not expecting Scott Adkins caliber fisticuffs, then this film might entertain on a Saturday night.
The finale which consists of the riot and subsequent breakout is the gloriously self indulgent highlight of the movie and viewers will be rewarded with some of the most insane looking shootouts and kills ever put on film. It’s a massive spectacle of blood and guts that is a mixture of bad CGI and practical effects and every time someone gets shot, they are literally shredded to pieces in glorious cheesy fashion. Describing it doesn’t do it justice. You have to witness it to fully understand what I’m saying.
Bronzi, of course, has the most fun as he runs and guns and even gets to let loose with a grenade launcher. Hahn also has a great time during the free for all finale as he unloads some immense horrid CGI firepower with a mini-gun. I’m not gonna lie when I say that even though I knew I was watching a bad film, I still had a lot of fun with it as it brought back some wonderful feelings of the type of unapologetic movies that Cannon Films put out back in the day. The only thing missing was the gratuitous nudity.
Overall, it’s no secret at what type of film you are getting with Escape From Death Block 13. It’s crude, brazen and forgettable but serious action aficionados will still have a great time with it with a wink and a nudge. The action and violence is ridiculous and the look and feel of the movie will leave you wanting more and it definitely gives you a “what the hell did I just watch?” vibe when all is said and done.
There will only ever be one Charles Bronson, but Robert Bronzi is certainly making the most out of his 15 minutes of fame. He’s the undisputed king right now of mediocre C grade DTV action and he brings an aura of nostalgia to his movies that is unrivaled. He even does the iconic point and shoot with his hand that Bronson did in Death Wish. How’s that for a homage? You will know that this is a bad movie but you’ll still be unable to take your eyes off the screen. Hell, I might even watch it again just for that off the chart finale and that right there tells you something. This film is the very definition of guilty pleasure. Set your expectation level to low and you might just get out alive.