Escape Room Tournament of Champions: Review
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions Synopsis: Six people unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive — and discover they’ve all played the game before. For Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller), this second time through is a chance to take down the evil organization Minos for good.
In a world where Hollywood is constantly looking for their next franchise, 2019’s Escape Room served as a delightful surprise. Integrating the death-defying Saw formula with the modern zest of extreme escape room settings, writer/director Adam Robitel skillfully crafted a pulse-pounding, B-movie delight. The film cleaned up financially during the doldrums of January, morphing a meager production budget (9 million) into a 155 million worldwide hit.
Money talks in Hollywood, which leads us to the gleefully titled sequel Escape Room: Tournament of Champions. Robitel doubles down on the original’s preposterous tendencies, and while there are still hiccups intact, Tournament of Champions elicits another shameless good time at the multiplex.
Making this type of bombastic shlock is harder than it appears. The tone requires a straight-faced delivery within an inherently silly premise, while the daunting escape rooms must match the original’s inventive design work. Thankfully, Robitel doesn’t miss a beat. His direction brazenly stretches towards high-art camp, escalating his promising premise into a narrative high-wire act chock-full of shocking twists and turns.
Robitel exhibits remarkable poise and creativity, with a series of swift camera movements intoxicating viewers into the sweaty-palm thrills of each revolving setting. From shocking electrical currents to the cutting bite of acid rain, there are a plethora of inventive situations conjured to make the daunting escape rooms come to life. The director maintains this frenetic energy throughout the swift 88-minute duration, displaying astute self-awareness without ever overplaying his hand.
Similar to Saw, the Escape Room series has discovered its own playful charm even when the stunts aren’t onscreen. The quartet of screenwriters (Will Honley, Maria Melnik, Daniel Tuch, and Oren Uziel) embrace the revolving mystery of each dangerous room, turning our characters into Sherlock Holmes equivalents as they piece together a series of obscure clues. It’s all kind of madness, but it’s the type of imaginative, high-energy jargon that instantly draws loving cackles from audiences (the plotting only gets more endearing with each ridiculous clue). Taylor Russell and Logan Miller deserve significant praise for continuing to ground the shlocky proceedings. Along with a well-calibrated ensemble, the two returners infuse enough gravity and humanity into their underwritten roles.
I had a blast throughout Tournament of Champions, yet the series continues to press forward with the same missteps. Robitel and company struggle to humanize these characters past generic character tropes. The breakneck pace and imprecise writing prevent any of the six from gravitating much interest, while attempts at deeper ruminations on our paranoid surveillance state go virtually nowhere. I also hope this series goes for the gusto more with any potential sequels. Robitel assuredly operates in the confines of PG-13 horror, but an R-rating could allow these setpieces to land with grizzlier impact.
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the type of B-movie crowdpleaser I love to see. It’s an infectiously dopey and wildly entertaining franchise, one that I hope presses on with its own Saw-like run of sequels.