The story, set in a dystopian future, concerns a former Marine who is serving life imprisonment on an island inhabited by savage and cannibalistic prisoners. It was shot in Queensland, Australia.
In the year 2022, the penal system is run entirely by corporations, with prisoners seen as assets. Highly trained ex-marine John Robbins is imprisoned for life for murdering his commanding officer, who in 2011 ordered him to kill scores of innocent men, women and children in Benghazi (Libya). The event haunts Robbins over a decade later.
Robbins had escaped from two Level 5 maximum security prisons and is now incarcerated in a Level 6 facility. A fellow prisoner tells him about "Absolom", an island where they send the worst prisoners—a place feared more than the prison. The warden, after he is held at gunpoint by Robbins, is convinced that Robbins is a threat and exiles him to the island.
Once on the island, Robbins is captured by a large group of prisoners known as the 'Outsiders', whose only order is The Law of the Jungle and are led by a sociopath named Marek. The island —previously a private retreat with dilapidated houses and a swimming pool— is where the Outsiders have established a base. Marek insists that Robbins fight one of his men for his amusement. Marek is impressed when Robbins kills his opponent in seconds, and offers him a position in his gang. Robbins instead knocks Marek into a pool, steals his rocket launcher, and flees from the Outsider's camp. Pursued through the jungle, he ends up trapped at the edge of a high cliff where he is shot in the neck by blowgun darts. He falls into the river below, where he washes up on some rocks and is retrieved by another group, called the 'Insiders'.
Robbins awakens inside the Insiders' camp, which is led by a terminally-ill doctor called 'The Father', who put together a cooperative autonomous community with laws opposed to the tyranny of the Outsiders. He also meets King, the new-arrival helper, and Casey, a young man given a life sentence for taking part in a high-profile kidnapping. The Insiders number exactly 98, while the Outsiders total over 600. Robbins learns that he is the only person to have ever challenged and escaped from Marek's camp and that the weapon he stole had been appropriated for the good of the community.
After an attack by the Outsiders, The Father notes Robbins's resourcefulness and combat acumen and asks Robbins to join them. He refuses and says he wants to leave Absolom. Robbins is taken to the shore, where he learns that they are 200 miles from the mainland, and that there are gunships 50 miles off the coast. The prisoners are also being tracked by infrared satellite technology, mainly there to detect significant thermal activity such as large fires or explosions that could tip off other agencies. Other than that, the Warden lets the prisoners do what they want, including killing each other off.
Marek, back at the Outsider's camp, disposes of all the leaders of the various gangs that compose the Outsiders, giving himself a solidified force. He then starts controlling rations to keep the troops in line.
The Insiders have secretly built a scan-proof boat and launch it, manned by secret volunteers to escape the island and tell the outside world about Absolom. However, somehow the boat is detected by the attack helicopters and is destroyed.
Robbins learns of the Insiders' plan to escape using another motorboat, and he demands a seat, determined to escape so he can tell the authorities the truth behind the civilian deaths in Libya and of Absolom. He learns that the Insiders' boat engine needs a distributor, a part which Robbins saw while in Marek's camp. Robbins offers to get the part in exchange for a seat on the boat, and the Insiders agree. Robbins infiltrates the Outsiders' camp and gets the engine part, but he is captured by the Outsiders. He is then forced to fight Casey, who secretly tailed Robbins to the camp but was caught in a booby trap. Casey impales and kills himself on Robbin's weapon, and Robbins is taken to be executed. With the help of an Insider spy, Robbins escapes from the camp again, which infuriates Marek, who announces an all-out war with the Insiders.
Over stern objection, Robbins convinces the Insiders to abandon their camp. However, he stays behind to fire the stolen rocket launcher, which ignites an incendiary bomb that kills most of the Outsiders. It also triggers the satellite infrared sensors, causing the Warden to send troops to the island. Marek survives and attacks Robbins, but the Father defends him before he can deliver the final blow. Marek kills The Father and Robbins kills Marek just as the Insiders get the boat engine working. The boat is suddenly blown up and the boat builder is stabbed by the informer. Robbins learns that King is the informer in the Insiders' camp who has been contacting the Warden by radio, informing him of each escape attempt made. Robbins forces King to give false information to the Warden, so that he lands his helicopter on the island and looks for the informant. Robbins hijacks the helicopter, throwing the Warden off the ship, and escapes from Absolom, vowing to spread the truth about the island. King and the Warden are left behind, looking anxiously to the trees as the unseen Outsiders close in on them.Ray Liotta as John Robbins
Lance Henriksen as The Father
Stuart Wilson as Marek
Kevin Dillon as Casey
Kevin J. O'Connor as Stephano
Don Henderson as Killian
Ian McNeice as King
Jack Shepherd as Dysart
Michael Lerner as Warden
Ernie Hudson as Hawkins
Russell Kiefel as Iceman
Brian M. Logan as Scab
Cheuk-Fai Chan as Skull
David Wenham as Hotel Guard
No Escape received mixed reviews from critics. It holds a rating of 53% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 15 reviews.
A video game based on the film was released in 1994 for Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and PC.
Parts of the Warden's speeches at the start of the film have been re-edited and used on the track "Immune" from the eponymous first album of the band Godsmack.