Review: The Heroes and Puzzles of 'Escape Room' are Back in 'Tournament Of Champions'

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 21, 2021

'Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions'
'Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions'  (Source:Sony)

The deadly puzzles of 2019's "Escape Room" are back — and this time, they've got company.

In 2019's surprise hit, a group of clever thinkers were mysteriously brought together and forced to participate in an elaborate and deadly escape room. Two make it out alive: Zoey (Taylor Russell) and Ben (Logan Miller).

In "Escape Room: Tournament of Champions," our pair have uncovered the mastermind behind the games — an organization called Minos — but are unable to convince anyone that what happened to them was real. While Ben is ready to move on and continue with a normal college life, Zoey is determined to bring Minos down.

Zoey convinces Ben to drive to New York City with her, where she feels she knows where Minos is setting up a new escape room. Before you know it, a street thief has swiped Zoey's precious locket and, after a hopeless chase through the streets of Manhattan, the two end up on a subway, where — you guessed it — they're thrust into the game once again... this time, with a crew of former survivors of other escape rooms.

Our duo is joined by former priest Nathan (Thomas Cocquerel), grumpy Rachel (Holland Roden), tough-as-nails Brianna (Indya Moore), and high-strung husband Theo (Carlito Olivero). The group is now forced to play the game once again, while Zoey is resolute in beating Minos and ensuring everyone survives.

While the original film was a total surprise, and half the fun was the solving of the games, "Tournament of Champions" simply ups the ante with more elaborate set pieces that have horrific results. Since all of the players here know the game, the crew tends to solve things so quickly, so it's hard for the audience to play along. Mostly, we just watch them figure things out.

While it is certainly suspenseful, director Adam Robitel and the gaggle of screenwriters credited here need to remember to slow things down every once in a while, to engage the audience on a mental level. Most of the film plays out as exposition: "Go over there! Pull that lever! Look for something with four numbers!" While it can still be thrilling, there is something missing that was present in the original.

Furthermore, most of the new characters are one-note. It's great to see trans actress Indya Moore in an ensemble that doesn't feel it has to mention the fact that she is trans, but aside from her abrasiveness we know nothing about her character. Ditto Rachel.

The last act of "Tournament" has a few nifty reveals that engage and keep the audience on its toes. The rest of the film is certainly fun, but there is nothing that surprising. People you expect to secretly be bad are, and since we know this is a film about clues, audiences are on the lookout the second the movie starts. When things are revealed later on, it's hard to be alarmed.

That said, it's still an entertaining romp, and I'm totally on board for more. This feels like the new "Saw" franchise that could go on year after year with a running story and a mix of new and diverse actors joining in.

While there is no real tournament (no player is playing against each other), this sequel is a good escape from the heat of summer and a welcome return to theaters. In a way, we've all spent over a year finding our way out of our pandemic homes. Now we can relax and let others do the escaping.

"Escape Room: Tournament of Champions" is available digitally today

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.