The Plot: Having narrowly escaped from the clutches of the devious Minos Corporation in their previous escape room encounter, survivors Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) are now intent on finding out more and stopping them for good. With Zoey nervous about flying (and with good cause), they drive to Manhattan instead and end up in a foot chase leading onto a subway train. Bad idea. It’s not long before they find themselves roped back in to a new set of games, this time with other previous survivors in a tournament to see who comes out still alive…
The Verdict: Escape rooms exploded in popularity a few years ago, prompting not one but three low-budget films with the same title of Escape Room. The best and most interesting of them was the 2019 Sony-produced version, which showed imagination and style in its escape room design belying its relatively small budget. It was a box office hit and it wasn’t hard to see why. With the Saw franchise in need of resuscitation once again, Escape Room tapped into that same frantic race against time before some deadly trap sprung into action and resulted in the death of a character – but without the excessive gore. Saw-lite, so to speak. Spiral: From The Book Of Saw came and went recently, flogging an already dead horse. So, what has Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions got to offer this time around?
More of the same essentially, but not necessarily better. The film catches up with the survivors / winners of the previous game, Zoey and Ben. Now firm friends, they’re intent on taking down Minos and avenging those who didn’t make it through the deadly escape rooms. Returning director Adam Robitel barely allows time to re-introduce his leading characters before they find themselves on a train ride back to hell, with a few shocks to get them moving. Round two beckons, this time accompanied by several other survivors. This all happens in a seemingly random way that is too convenient and contrived for a series that has taken great pains to be precise about the rules of the game. As the characters move through different game rooms and environments, Minos seems less like an opportunistic company using fast-thinking innocents for their sporting pleasure and more like a nefarious, overarching organisation like SPECTRE. They’re everywhere and yet nowhere, ready to pounce when least expected. The audience is as in the dark as the characters – and none the wiser either by the end of the film.
Where the film does work well is in the escape room production design once again. They have that artificial impression like a vague memory pulled out of a drawer and dressed up to resemble something familiar but not quite real to be acceptable. There’s a clever through-line to these room designs, which the observant might notice as Robitel drops clues. He also ratchets up the tension with the added threat of lasers, electricity and acid rain to up the stakes for our dwindling characters. The Crystal Maze meets Saw, hosted by Ernst Stavro Blofeld? That’s a cheery thought. Robitel does a good job of keeping the plot ticking over, though he does seem to be a in great hurry to get through each room / death trap. It gets rather noisy and frantic at times, with Brian Tyler and John Carey’s dominant score nearly drowning out dialogue. Was Robitel concerned about short attention spans perhaps? Adding more character development wouldn’t have hurt the film or its pacing either, though Russell and Miller anchor the film well.
Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions is something of a mixed bag then. When it works, it works well within its fiendish game parameters. When it doesn’t, the missteps are glaringly obvious and threaten to imbalance the film. It manages to just about hold itself together. If there’s to be a third and possibly concluding chapter, then concrete answers on Minos and where the story is going are needed rather than playing cloudy mind games with the audience as much as the characters. After all, more tricks than treats becomes tiresome and Escape Room could end up like the worn-out franchise it’s emulating. Let’s play a game…
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions
Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions (USA / 15A / 88 mins)
In short: More tricks than treats
Directed by Adam Robitel.
Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden.