Some movies require you to suspend your disbelief. The Escape Room movies require you to launch your disbelief into outer space. That's certainly true of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, which is even more absurd, preposterous, and illogical than the original. It's also just as much fun, provided you can surrender yourself to the sheer implausibility of every single thing that transpires over the course of its eighty-eight minutes.
This sequel picks up not long after the original ended. Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller) make the trip to New York City so they can uncover the truth about Minos, the shadowy organization that put them into a series of deadly escape rooms. Not long after they arrive, it becomes clear that Minos has been expecting them. A seemingly standard ride on a subway train proves to be the first booby-trapped place from which they need to find a way out.
Also on board are four other individuals who, it turns out, were the “winners” of Minos' escape rooms in different cities. Theo (Carlito Olivero) has a pregnant wife he wants to get back to, Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel) is a priest, Rachel (Holland Roden) has a syndrome that renders her unable to feel pain, and Brianna (Indya Moore) is a popular blogger/influencer. Not all of them survive.
The plot of Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is thin. Basically, it's just the characters travelling through the perilous rooms, trying not to die. Even if not exactly intricate in the storytelling department, the movie's design of the rooms and their clues is ingenious. Since it's prominently featured in the trailer, I'll use the subway car scene as an example. The car becomes electrified, so the gang has limited time to figure out what they need to do before getting shocked. Misspelled words in advertisements point the way to a need to pull on the subway handles, which in turn releases tokens to put in the coin slot, and so on.
Other rooms are just as clever. One is an art deco bank, another a beach area. Of course, it only ever takes Zoey and crew a few seconds to figure out what the hidden clues refer to, but that's okay because it keeps the film's relentless pace going. I enjoyed the creativity that went into conceiving each of the themed rooms, as well as the way their respective clues fit together. Late in the picture, an awesomely devious revelation puts a new spin on the situation, forcing Zoey to rethink how she's going to outsmart Minos – if that's possible to begin with.
The secret weapon here is Taylor Russell. The actress, who was positively scorching in Waves and Words on Bathroom Walls, elevates the admittedly far-fetched material with a winning performance. She makes us get behind Zoey by projecting emotional strength, not to mention a strong sense of intelligence. With such a rooting interest, looking past the ludicrous nature of the story's events becomes easier. Russell truly is one of the best young performers around.
You can easily get bogged down thinking about how absolutely zero in this film could happen in real life, or you can just give in to the silliness. I chose the latter. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is mindless entertainment at its finest.
out of four
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is rated PG-13 for violence, terror/peril and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.