In 10 Words or Less
If Jackass was about science and escape artists
Loves: If Jackass was about science and escape artists
Likes: Jonathan Goodwin, Jackass
Dislikes: Seeing people in pain
If Johnny Knoxville gave a crap about the science behind his stunts, and he focused on getting out of trouble, instead of into it, Jackass would look a lot like One Way Out. British escape artist Jonathan Goodwin, assisted by his two American pals Mikey (on comic relief) and Terry (an engineer), explores various factors that influence safety (or as he calls them, jeopardies) and then tries to combat them in a big escape attempt. In trying to prepare for the jeopardies, he learns about things like impact force, gravity, temperature and fire, and imparts some of that wisdom upon the audience. It's not preachy in its educational content, as Goodwin simply utilizes the info he discovers to help his escapes.
Each episode has some experiments that focus on the main theme, leading up to the main escapes. Sometimes, the experiments, which are of a very homegrown variety and frequently take place around his home, are as interesting as the finales, because they are less formal and far more chaotic. For instance, when trying to learn about concentration and minimizing body movement, he has to escape being zip-tied to his dining-room table, while having a scorpion inside his duct-taped mouth (and his pal Mikey smacking him in the face, agitating the scorpion.) Watching the insect crawl into and out of Goodwin's mouth is easily one of the most horrible images I've ever seen, but he follows it up by being intentionally stung by bees on various body parts to see how he would react. If you've ever been stung, you can image how awful this would be to watch, and it's just one of several scenes that will have you watching through your fingers. Not all of the experiments are as masochistic, but pretty much all of them result in pain for Goodwin (and frequently Mikey as well.)
While the experiments are crazy, the feature escapes are simply insane, and show Goodwin to be a bit nuts. Whether it's trying to escape a box while covered in bees, on top of a rocking washing machine, or attempting to escape thumb-cuffs while a car drives over his head, the results are normally a tremendous amount of suffering on the escape artist's part. The most disturbing of the bunch has to be when he was buried alive in a coffin under thousands of pounds of dirt, as it's an escape that has killed others. Goodwin is not a magician, and these are not tricks, but rather the efforts of a resourceful man with extreme levels of physical skill and body control. Since these are escapes, and not performances, Goodwin occasionally fails to complete his goals, so there's an actual sense of drama and you never know if he'll succeed, a realistic atmosphere aided by the homebrew, handheld shooting style.
There's a lot about science and the human body that one can learn from this show, but there's also a good deal about physics, technology and construction that can be gleamed from the complex and ingenious escape devices created by Terry (with guidance from Goodwin.) The episode about ice, which sees Goodwin get submerged in freezing water, under a 300-pound, three-inch slab of ice, while chained to a block of ice, is fascinating as it shows the effects of cold on the body, a situation most everyone has experienced at some point, much like the experiments in dizziness. Unlike some shows that have a lot to teach the viewer, there's not a moment here that's boring, as the sense of humor shared by the three main players helps keep everything light, and the info isn't just valuable to a lunatic putting their life on the line as a human projectile, as it gives a better understanding of the physical world we all share.
The two DVDs holding this set are packed in a clear single-width keepcase with a tray and a two-sided cover that has a guide to the episodes on the inside front cover. The discs have animated, anamorphic-widescreen menus, with options to play all the episodes, select individual ones or adjust languages. There are no audio options or closed captioning, but subtitles are included in English SDH.
The anamorphic-widescreen transfers on these episodes look great, with solid, appropriate color and an excellent level of fine detail. There are a few camera angles, mostly unmanned lipstick cameras, which don't look so hot, but that's the cameras, not the DVDs. There are no issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that don't offer anything particularly impressive, with center-balanced stereo mixes that are clear and distortion-free.
There's one extra, and it's a good one, as the special/pilot that preceded the series is included. In this show, Jonathan tasks his pals (a much larger group than the duo from the series) with setting up an escape from a flooded office. The resulting stunt is an impressive one, especially the way they worked around not being able to flood an existing office building.
The Bottom Line
It's always a good sign if, when you finish a marathon viewing of a series, you want more to enjoy, but frequently, that good sign is followed by disappointment when you discover there is no more. Such is the case here, as the 10 episodes fly by and with just one more bonus entry, it's not quite satisfying enough in the end, even if the show itself is great fun, combining the excitement of the escapes with the chance to learn something new, all delivered with a good sense of humor. As long as you don't get too squeamish, this show should appeal to just about anyone.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.