International Horror Film Review: Escape From The Bronx (dir by Enzo G. Castellari)

The Slo Mo of Doom!

All bad action films tend to feature it.  (Actually, it shows up in some good action films as well.)  Whenever a group of soldiers step on a mine and slowly flip through the air as a result of the subsequent explosion, that’s the Slo Mo of Doom.  Whenever an important supporting character is shot and the film suddenly slows down so that each frame of their collapse is their highlighted, that’s the Slo Mo of Doom.  Sometimes, it’s a way of saying, “Hey, you should care more about this violent death than you care about all of the other violent deaths in this movie.”  Sometimes, it’s a way of showing off the fact that the producers could afford stunt people, even if they couldn’t afford anything else.  Other times, it’s just a way to pad out the running time so that a movie can at least reach the 90 minute mark before the end credits roll.  Regardless of the reason why it’s deployed, Slo Mo of Doom is usually a good sign that you’re watching a cheesy action film.

Last night, when I watched the 1983 Italian film, Escape from the Bronx, with a group of friends, we counted at least six instances of the Slo Mo of Doom.  There may have been even more, it’s hard to say.  Along with frequent slow motion, Escape from the Bronx features a lot of flame throwers, several corporate bad guys, and an abundance of graffiti.   It also featured Henry Silva as a villain named Floyd Wangler and Antonio Sabato, Sr. as a flamboyant rebel leader who dressed like he was appearing in an Off Broadway adaptation of The Fantasticks.  In short, it was a classic of its kind.

Escape From The Bronx takes place in, what was then, the future.  (To be specific, the story is said to take place in the year 2000.)  The Bronx has become such an eyesore that an evil corporation wants to blow up all the buildings and rebuild.  Unfortunately, the residents of the Bronx know how difficult it is to find an apartment in New York City and they don’t want to move.  In order to change their minds, Floyd Wangler and his army of jackbooted, flame thrower-wielding bad guys invade the Bronx.  “Leave the Bronx!” they announce.  “It is time to leave the Bronx.”  And, to be honest, the Bronx looks like a terrible place to live so maybe they have a point.

A motorcycle-riding bad boy named Trash (played by Mark Gregory) doesn’t want to leave the Bronx so he goes underground.  While the buildings are being blown up and people are being set on fire, Trash teams up with Doblon (Antonio Sabato, Sr.) and his gang of flashy rebels.  Working with a mercenary named Strike (Giancarlo Prete) and journalist named Moon Gray (Valeria D’Obici), Trash plots to kidnap the president of the corporation.  Of course, by doing so, Trash might be doing exactly what Floyd wants him to do.

Both John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and George Miller’s Mad Max films were very popular in Europe and Escape From The Bronx was one of the many Italian films to imagine New York (or, in this case, one unfortunate borough of New York) as being some sort of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  (In fact, Escape From The Bronx was a sequel to another film called The Bronx Warriors.  The adventures of Trash could not be contained to just one film.)  One could argue that Escape From The Bronx was an early warning against the horrors of gentrification, with the poor being set on fire so that the rich can blow up their homes and make even more money.  Personally, I thought the film was much more about the struggle of the Italian film industry to come to terms with the legacy of Mussolini.  Floyd Wangler may have had a silly name but, as played by Henry Silva, he was the chilling epitome of the authoritarian impulse come to life.  With his black uniform and his steely gaze, it was easy to imagine Floyd as one of the fascists who marched on Rome in 1922.  There’s a definite political subtext to Escape from the Bronx, one that can easily get overshadowed by the prominent use of the Slo Mo of Doom.

That’s not to say that Escape from the Bronx is a particularly good film, of course.  There’s a few decent action scenes but the middle part of the film drags and Mark Gregory doesn’t have much screen presence.  Henry Silva is better-cast as the bad guy but it’s hard to take a villain named Floyd seriously.  That said, Escape from the Bronx is an entertaining film to watch with a group of friends.  This is a film that invites you to talk back to the screen and, with all of its costumed rebels, it’s actually a good film for October.  Whatever its flaws, I defy anyone to watch this film without getting “Leave the Bronx” stuck in their head.

And, if nothing else, you can always have fun counting all of the Slo Mo of Doom.

One response to “International Horror Film Review: Escape From The Bronx (dir by Enzo G. Castellari)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 10/11/21 — 10/17/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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