Director: Adam Robitel
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Indya Moore, Holland Roden, Thomas Cocquerel, Carlito Olivero
Runtime: 1 hr 28 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language and Intense Sequences)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 16 September 2021
Synopsis: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the sequel to the box office hit psychological thriller that terrified audiences around the world. In this installment, six people unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive…and discovering they’ve all played the game before.
For the uninitiated, ‘Escape Room’ saw a group of strangers being forced to play a series of deadly logic puzzles for their lives; two of them managed to survive and vowed to expose the persons behind the game, who had trapped them within for sport. Given how it was a sleeper hit back in summer 2019, it is no surprise that a sequel was quickly greenlit.
‘Escape Room: Tournament of Champions’ picks up right after where the original left off, with returning director Adam Robitel throwing these two survivors – Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) – into yet another series of death traps together with four other survivors of their respective tournaments.
Whereas the first movie was a tight little thriller that featured a genuinely likeable bunch of characters, this sequel lacks the same excitement, even as it tries to up the lavishness of the death chambers themselves. Indeed, as elaborately conceived as they are, one rarely senses any real stakes involved, simply because the pacing is too busy to let its audience truly appreciate the puzzles, the clues or the supposed ingenuity of the characters playing these games.
Indeed, within the span of 88 minutes, Robitel rushes his audience through no less than four such set-pieces, including an electrified subway car, an art deco bank lobby, an oceanfront mockup of sinking sand, and a fake New York City block showered by acid rain.
Ironically, the most well-choreographed one is the very first, which finds Zoey and Ben having to break the ice with the other inhabitants while trying to locate missing letters on advertisements around the metal train car in order to collect tokens to stop the electrocution chamber. In contrast, the rubrics of the other games seem clumsy, such that not only are the specifics too convoluted to intrigue, the players themselves also end up making unbelievable leaps of logic to beat the ticking clock within these games. For sure, none of the puzzles here match up to the upside-down pool hall in the original, which ultimately makes this sequel inferior.
Neither do Robitel’s team of writers manage to make us care much about the people in peril. Any sentimentality attached to Zoey and/or Ben is largely credit to the 2019 original (and would therefore escape those who had not seen it), while there is little to empathise with the influencer Brianna (Indya Moore), nerve-damaged Rachel (Holland Roden), fallen priest Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel) and tough guy Theo (Carlito Olivero) whose presence seems to be really to just make up the numbers.
Only towards the end does the film try to up the emotional quotient by introducing us to Minos, the company behind the escape rooms who had been pulling the strings all along. Even so, it comes too little too late, especially in redeeming the movie from its own earlier humdrum; in fact, we dare say that we know less about the puppet masters behind the games than we did in the original, and it is disappointing that Robitel decided to drag out the inevitable confrontation between Zoey and Minos to the next franchise entry.
Oh yes, the ending leaves it wide open for yet another chapter in what its studio probably hoped to be a lucrative franchise. Yet as flashy and diverting as it may be during its brief runtime, there is hardly anything memorable or significant about this sequel which should make you look forward to the next entry. The worst thing about such games isn’t the feeling of frustration if you cannot manage to crack a particular game, but feeling bored and uninvolved by it; unfortunately, that is exactly what this ‘Tournament of Champions’ is guilty of.
(Too frenetic and absurd to be involving, intriguing, let alone thrilling, this high-concept but lowlily-executed sequel will leave you bored)
Review by Gabriel Chong