- on Friday, 28 August 2015 15:28
- by Frank Wilkins
Having suffered a significant stumble with last year’s subterranean found-footage thriller As Above/So Below, the brother filmmaking team of John Erick and Drew Dowdle found themselves searching for the bright promise they once showed with such films as The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007), Quarantine (2008), and Devil (2010), each of which went on to commercial success.
Next up in their growing repertoire is No Escape, an international suspense thriller that represents a significant departure from their horror roots and unfortunately shows a level discomfort with that unfamiliar territory. They had hoped for a film that emphasizes the importance and strength of family in times of peril, but instead wound up with a racially-charged piece of sensationalism.
No Escape has its moments. In fact, quite a few actually as we’re taken on a breathtaking escape where danger and very bad guys lurk around every corner. But for every white-knuckle gut punch, there are two of those ridiculously contrived “a parent wouldn’t really do that” moments that snap us out of the instant and send us searching for the bag of popcorn.
Owen Wilson is Jack Dwyer, an environmental engineer about to start a new job with family in tow at an unnamed Asian country. As the film opens, the country’s Prime Minister is assassinated in a coup launched by a ragtag rebel army while Jack’s plane is in final descent. Almost immediately the family is thrust into survival mode as heavily-armed gangs of roving rebels roam the city and are quickly descending upon the family’s hotel. A quick glance out the window reveals an escalating scenario that Jack knows he can’t afford to hide from his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and two young daughters. People are being savagely slaughtered in the streets as the city seems to be exploding in violence. The remainder of the film is a battle for survival as the family tries to get to the American embassy in a primal struggle to stay alive.
There’s a deep sense of futility that permeates nearly every scene of No Escape as the family face one inescapable situation after another. Everywhere they turn there’s another gang of bandana-clad bad guys who line up to chop, dice, mutilate, and shoot their victims with reckless and bloody abandon. We get it, these guys are ruthless. But in the familiar fashion of the best movie cliches, Jack and family pull one “McGyver” after another – including the reality-stretching scenario of hurtling their daughters from rooftop to rooftop – to escape the bad guys in their race to the embassy.
Any parent knows that not a single real-life scenario exists that would prompt a parent to throw a child from one rooftop to another in this manner. Not to mention the fact that the feat would require being able to hurl a child the distance of a city block in the first place. In times of extreme danger we hug, protect, and will do anything to be near our offspring at all costs. Nor would we ever leave them alone, hidden in a dark alley with just a whispery shush, as is the case throughout No Escape. “You stay right here, Sweety and don’t move while I go kick this bad guy’s ass.” We just don’t buy it and it happens time and time again.
Another of the film’s shortcomings is in the form of a local populace that is never fully defined. Instead, they are broadly illustrated as either filthy street vendors, thugs, hoodlums, and murderous rebels or in the case of their cowboy hat-wearing taxi driver, a stereotyped token who calls himself Kenny Rogers due to his admiration of the American singer. The depiction is not outright racist but definitely has the ripened smell of racial overtones.
Situated smack dab in the doldrums of the late August dumping ground, No Escape can suffice as thrilling popcorn entertainment until the good ones get here. And seeing Bell and Wilson perform adequately outside their comedy comfort zones is a pleasure to see. Too, in today’s world of political uncertainty, the premise has an unmistakably chilling sense of gravitas and authenticity that rattles the soul. But those hoping for a return to form by the Dowdles will have to tap the brakes as this one isn’t it.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including a sexual assault, and for language.
Runtime: 103 mins
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Cast: Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Owen Wilson
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Tagline: All that matters is making it out alive..
Memorable Movie Quote: "Welcome to Asia."
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/NoEscapeMovie
Release Date: August 26, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: No Escape centers on an American businessman (Wilson) as he and his family settle into their new home in Southeast Asia. Suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a violent political uprising, they must frantically look for a safe escape as rebels mercilessly attack the city. Directed by John Erick Dowdle and written together with his brother Drew, No Escape stars Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan and Lake Bell.
No details available.