R4 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (4th March 2018).
The Film

"Jailbreak" ការពារឧក្រិដ្ឋជន (2017)

One of the leaders of the Butterfly gang nicknamed "Playboy" (played by Savin Phillip) has been arrested, and is ready to be taken to the high security prison Prei Klaa. While the police are still in search of the real leader of the Butterfly gang, they need to protect Playboy from getting back into the hands of his gang. Police officers Dara (played by Dara Our), Sucheat (played by Dara Phang), and Tharoth (played by Tharoth Sam) are ordered to carry out the escort to the prison, and tagging along for the mission is Inspector Jean Paul (played by Jean-Paul Ly from France. The real gang leader, "Madame Butterfly" (played by Celine Tran) and her gang members fail in capturing the soon-to-be squealer, and devise a plan to capture him from the inside - with the aid of tough prisoner Bolo (played by Sisowath Siriwudd) and his loyal group of prisoners. When doors are unlocked and the incarcerated outnumber the police, it's a fight to the death for the escorts as well as for the scaredy-cat Playboy.

This Cambodian martial arts/police action film borrows a lot from the Indonesian films "The Raid" (2011) and "The Raid 2" (2014) as well as the Hong Kong "SPL" (2005) and "SPL 2" (2015) films with high octane fast paced martial arts spectacles relying on high body counts and insane amounts of punches and kicks. While those Indonesian and Hong Kong films - especially the sequels had fairly large budgets and production values to work with, "Jailbreak" is on a slightly lesser scale. The prison corridors seem to be endless but with camera angles, tricks on switching signs and doors, one corridor could be transformed into the next. The "bad guys" with their prison blues are generic with many prisoner stuntmen appearing in the next scene even though they were taken out in the scene prior. But these are clever tricks of the trade and do not distract from the main attraction that is the fight scenes throughout with hand to hand combat. It's been stated that the 75 "stuntmen" were barely stuntmen but extras that had to be trained for weeks on end for the fight choreography and basic training, trained by lead actors Jean-Paul Ly and Dara Our. The Cambodian film industry is a very minor element in world cinema and it has been very rare for productions to be exported outside the country, but this production benefited from being a French-Cambodian coproduction.

Director Jimmy Henderson and writer Michael Hodgson have worked on several Cambodian productions in the past, and for this production they were able to reach out to receive talent from France, with the additions of Celine Tran and Jean-Paul Ly in leading parts plus martial artist Laurent Plancel in a small role. Though most of the film is in the native Khmer language of Cambodia, there are portions in French and in English for some international appeal. Though plot-wise there are certain points that don't seem to make much sense. It makes sense for Jean-Paul to ask in English what others are saying as he cannot understand Khmer. There are then scenes where Jean-Paul and Tharoth cannot understand each other and then in the next they are talking to each other in different languages but seemingly able to understand what the other is saying. There doesn't seem to be much reasoning for the language differences as there are very few times when not being able to speak the language hampers the plotline. As for having characters like a cannibal in solitary confinement set loose was a bloody and comical addition, but nothing to set the motion of the story forward.

The fight scenes are intense not just with the fast action but also with the camerawork. Again taking a nod from the kinetic style of "The Raid" where the camera is almost a character itself, there are upside down shots, POV moments, whip pans, and lots of shakycam shots to invoke the adrenaline and for the most part works. The unfortunate element is that it does not seem to add much in the way of innovation. Many of the tricks from invisible cutting to motion blurring have been done to death so there is not much that will shock or surprise audiences of the genre. But as they are not exactly the norms in traditional or mainstream filmmaking, they might be awe-inspiring for others.

The film premiered theatrically on January 31st 2017 in Cambodia and drew in significant audience numbers considering it was a local film production. It played at various film festivals around the world and won the audience award for "Best Action Film" at the Fantasia Film Festival. While the film takes too much from the inspired works and does not set itself apart too much, it is still a roaring fun time with balls to the wall action and also fascinating to see Cambodian works being seen outside of its home country.

Note this is a regions 2/4 NTSC DVD


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. The color palate is mostly in the drab grey and browns for the cold prison environment, though there are the occasional bursts of gold such as with Madame Butterfly's residence and the brighter outdoor scenes. It is not a vivid film but a gritty one and the colors seem well balanced throughout the scenes. There are sometimes issues with detail and the fast shaky scenes in fights that blur a lot, but this seems to be part of the original elements rather than an issue with the transfer. Overall it is a good transfer from Umbrella for the film.


Khmer/French/English Dolby Digital 5.1
The original language track is presented in 5.1. This is a very immersive soundscape with the whip panning action serving alongside the surrounds. Ambient echoey elements are placed in the surrounds while most of the dialogue is placed in the center channel. The sound effects and music never drown out the dialogue and everything is very well balanced. About 75% of the dialogue is in Khmer and the rest is in French or English.

There are optional English subtitles in an off-yellow colored font, translating the Khmer and French portions as well as captioning the English portions. There should have been at least an option for a subtitle track that only translates the Khmer and French portions, but for people not used to the accents, the English captions could be seen as helpful. The subtitles were mostly fine, but there some minor errors such as grammar with "each others" or a line where one character clearly says in English "Stop fucking around" but in the subtitles it reads "Stop messing around".


Unfortunately no extras have been provided on the DVD. No making-of, no interviews, no commentary. The closest you can get is the end credits which offers some behind the scenes and outtakes. The trailer has also not been included on the disc, but here it is, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment:


"Jailbreak" may not present anything particularly new to the martial arts/police genre, but the French-Cambodian film is still an exciting and sometimes insane film to watch for the incredible action alone. Umbrella Entertainment's release unfortunately has no extras to accompany the film, but it is still worth watching for fans of the genre and people interested in seeing what's been the rage in Cambodian cinema.

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: F- Overall: C


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