Appealing performances from its stars Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan can’t salvage an action flick full of staggeringly misjudged moments that scupper an intriguing build up.
The premise places an average American family in the middle of a sudden uprising in an Asian country, where the locals congregate en masse to slaughter any foreigners they can. In his role as the father, Wilson provides a credible ‘everyman’, playing it deadly seriously and instilling a genuine sense of jeopardy during early scenes set in a hotel complex. Brosnan is also likeable (but sorely underused) as a lounge lizard who has a few tricks up his Hawaiian shirt sleeves.
Settled into their suite, the Dwyer’s hear thunderous noises in the distance. The phones aren’t working. The internet and cell service is down. The television is static. The following morning, Jack ventures outside to pick up an English newspaper. Then the horror of their situation becomes apparent. The country is in revolution. Bandana clad rioters are attacking the police, killing tourists, and the locals that cater to them. Jack barely gets back to the hotel before it is under siege by the rebels. He races to the room to get his family, but is horrified that his oldest daughter has gone swimming in the hotel pool. Surrounded by bloodthirsty enemies in a strange and hostile environment, the Dwyer’s embark on a primal journey to survive.
“Honestly not knocking Owen Wilson as an actor, but I love movies that have great stories and have me invested in the characters… This obviously didn’t do that. The summer season of movies haven’t been doing too well at all and it ends with ‘No Escape’.“
—J. Johnson (Sparx Entertainment’s Movie Critic)
Interest quickly wanes as the film progresses, with the central family seeking safe passage out of the country while seemingly being covered in an invisible shield that protects them and only them from the constant hail of bullets fired in their direction. It’s one of those movies in which you can quickly figure out the stock supporting character that’s going to be picked off next. A very brief scene seeks to quickly address the motivations behind the unrest, but the baddies are risibly one-dimensional.
The racial disparity of the film has to be addressed. The Dwyer’s are a white family in an Asian country. You’re never told where they are, but the assumption is Thailand. There are no Asian characters of substance, except for the token, selfless sidekick (Sahajak Boonthankit). Every other Asian is either killing, getting killed, or extras. I firmly understand that the draw of this movie is the perilous fish out of water scenario. But it would have been nice, and a little politically correct, to have Asian characters of substance. I truly believe you could have the same plot with genuine Asian parts.
It’s really Pierce Brosnan who saves No Escape from tumbling into the abyss of movies that come and go without a single memorable moment. Hammond is real from the first moment we meet him, with flaws and quirks to spare. You want to know everything about him and, even though you’re unsure if he can be trusted, you kind of wish he would at some point become the film’s protagonist. That never happens, but he does have a meaningful role in the film’s second half that keeps things moving swiftly in spite of the melodrama weighing down the narrative. Brosnan deserves bigger roles than this, but he makes due with what he’s given and essentially steals the film.
There is a moment in the opening scenes of No Escape when the film almost begins to feel like a disaster movie. There is a thick tension in the air that you can feel in your seat, but as soon as the chaos begins filmmaker John Erick Dowdle, who wrote the script along with this brother Drew, loses control. No Escape simply doesn’t seem to know what kind of a film it wants to be – a moving portrayal of a terrorist attack or a disposable action thriller. On both counts it fails, but at least they stopped just short of making the bad guys scream ‘durka durka’.