The plot was more Shawshank Redemption than CSI: two hardened inmates using power tools, handmade decoys and their hands to chisel and crawl their way out of a maximum-security prison in an subterranean escape.
But the pursuit of the fugitives from Clinton Correctional Facility may be even more old-fashioned, in large part because of the manner in which the two criminals emerged: onto a camera-less street corner and into a world in which some of the best tracking targets available - cellphones, cars and credit cards - may not apply.
"They're basically untraceable," said Joseph Giacalone, a retired New York City detective sergeant and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Indeed, in the early hours of the hunt, law enforcement officials were using manpower, road blocks and bloodhounds to try to find David Sweat and Richard W Matt, both of whom were serving lengthy prison sentences for murder.
On Sunday, hundreds of police and corrections officers were combing the wilderness and rural communities, going house to house in neighborhoods near the prison.
Describing a wide net and a sprawling investigation, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that officials had received more than 150 tips, from across the state, tantalizing investigators:
The state police, for instance, confirmed a connection of one of the suspects to the Syracuse area, where Sweat may have lived. Points of entry in Canada had been alerted, though it was not clear, the police said, if the escaped killers had access to a vehicle.
The governor himself cited the suspects' personal connections to the Buffalo area - Matt kidnapped and beat a man to death there in 1997 - and the state's Southern Tier, the sparsely populated border with Pennsylvania, where Sweat and an accomplice killed a sheriff's deputy, shooting him more than a dozen times in 2002. Cuomo, a Democrat, announced a $100,000 reward.
But none of those lures or leads, however, appeared to have developed into a lead.
“They could be literally anywhere,” said major Charles E. Guess, commander of the New York State Police troop leading the search.
Matt (49) and Sweat (35) were discovered missing during a 5.30am bed check on Saturday morning.
New York Times