ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX: The Perfect Italian Post-Apoc Knockoff

As its review here indicates, Schlockmania is quite fond of the Italian-made exploitation favorite 1990: The Bronx Warriors. However, it’s bettered on every level by its sequel, the amazing Escape From The Bronx. Between the first film and this one, director/co-writer Enzo G. Castellari clearly had time to size up the strengths of his initial Bronx outing – and the results here double down on all of them, making for kinetic stormtrooper of a movie that just can’t stop delivering the goods.

Escape From The Bronx continues the story of the previous film’s hero, Trash (Mark Gregory). He is now a lone wolf, a scavenger who braves the attacks of a corporation that’s attempting to clear out the Bronx so they can transform it into deluxe real estate. They send out goon squads with flamethrowers to “encourage” the remaining Bronx residents to leave – and when they kill Trash’s parents, he vows revenge.

Trash teams up with gang leader Dablone (Antonio Sabato) and robbery specialist Strike (Giancarlo Prete), hatching a daring plan to kidnap corporation president Clark (Ennio Girolami) via underground tunnels so they can bring the corporation to their knees. However, the corporation doesn’t plan to submit to their demands and sends out their nastiest enforcer, Wrangler (the great Henry Silva) to take the rebels by force.

Sequels can often be underwhelming, play-it-safe affairs, particularly when they are made on low budgets and tight schedules like Italian films from this era were, but Escape From The Bronx beats the odds. The script, penned by Castellari with Italian genre journeyman Tito Carpi, streamlines its core material so it can focus on its best assets. The resulting storyline strips back the intrigue and multiple subplots of 1990: The Bronx Warriors to create an elemental but effective pulp storyline where the action never lets up. If 1990: The Bronx Warriors had a good action scene once per reel, Escape From The Bronx has one every five minutes. That said, it still makes room for fun side-characters to flesh out the Trash-centric storyline, including a rebellious reporter (Valeria D’Obici) who sympathizes with the Bronx citizens and a little kid demolitions expert (Alessandro Prete).

Escape From The Bronx also uses its cast well: it doesn’t have the imported character actor star power of its predecessor but it makes up for that by maximizing on the potential of who they do have. Gregory, whose first-time performance was so strange in the first film, fares better here because the story allows him to focus on running around, fighting and participating in shootouts. Better yet, he gets solid assistance from Sabato, who is downright joyful as a gang leader who favors pirate chic clothing and tends to end sentences by bursting into full-throated laughter, and Prete, who takes the “likeable crook” persona he played so well in Street Law and uses it as the basis for a charming, crazy-like-a-fox character. That said, the biggest source of thespian entertainment here is Silva, who brings macho charm and a sense of madcap delight to what could have been a stock villain: be sure to look out for his reaction to a cup of coffee prepared the wrong way.

That said, the glue that holds this post-apocalyptic quickie together is Castellari’s direction. Of all the Italian genre directors of this era, no one took more delight in the kinetic visual properties of action and in Escape From The Bronx he takes that joy as far as the budget will allows: he gleefully stages a barrage of flamethrower attacks, explosions, shootouts, miniature explosions and fistfights throughout the film. He makes glorious use of slow motion, particularly when a bomb has a stuntman front-flipping through the air, and gives it the feel of a 2000 A.D. comic book story brought to life. His style is aided greatly by cinematography from future Cinema Paradiso d.p. Blasco Giurato and and a orchestrated, funk-rock score by Francesco DeMasi that plays like post-apocalyptic spaghetti western sounds.

In short, Escape From The Bronx is Schlockmania’s pick for the best of the Italian post-apoc knockoffs. It’s exciting, colorful and delivers all the excitement your inner 13 year-old could ever want. This is the kind of future shock that a cult movie fan can get behind.

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