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The Daily Wildcat

 

    Review: ‘No Escape’ can’t outrun its copious flaws

    Courtesy+of%26%23160%3BBold+Films

    Courtesy of Bold Films

    A nuclear American family tries to survive a violent uprising in a foreign country. “No Escape” is an entertaining popcorn flick, but not for all of the right reasons.

    In an effective cold opener that serves as a directorial showcase for John Erick Dowdle, who previously helmed horrors “Quarantine,” “Devil,” and “As Above, So Below,” the camera patiently tracks a waiter as he shepherds a couple of cocktails through the bustling hallways of a hotel.

    He reaches his destination at long last, and the drinks are delivered to the prime minister and the man he’s meeting. Shortly afterwards, the calm tension that was built by the long takes erupts in blood and gunshots as the prime minister is murdered by rebels.

    The sequence is separated from the rest of the film by the alarm-red title card, but it also stands alone stylistically. The rest of the film, primarily due to clunky screenwriting, lacks setpieces that are as satisfying.

    Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) is unknowingly delivering his wife, Annie (Lake Bell) and two young daughters, Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare), into this political uprising. For his work, the family has to relocate from the states to Southeast Asia. They’re in their hotel room for less than 24 hours when the coup starts.

    Make no mistake: it’s Southeast Asia, and most definitely, 100 percent not Thailand. The film was shot on location in Thailand with the support of the government, and thus there was no way that the savage bloodlust and instability showcased on screen was going to be attributed to their country. There is no Thai writing seen throughout the film, and the native language of this “unnamed” country is an amalgam of others.

    Although you would think that making the location so generic and unrecognizable would lead to a very insipid atmosphere, shooting on location provides the vibrant and alien flavor of Southeast Asia that is so challenging to our American family.

    While dropping our protagonists into hellish settings makes for entertaining, harrowing fare, it’s tough to ignore the “savage native” concept that is taken to such extremes here. The rebels take bullets and machetes to anything that is remotely associated with Western culture, and for 80 percent of the film no reason is given.

    By the time Hammond—a British secret service agent played by a Pierce Brosnan that vacillates wildly between “scene-stealingly charismatic” and “hamming it up”—tries to humanize them by saying that they’re in the right to defend their country from Western interference, it’s a single drop against a deluge.

    If you can push past this, the film’s poor script and missteps in direction still detract.

    There are your standard, overly convenient plot devices, like that every single person’s international phone doesn’t work, and your plot devices that go nowhere, like when Annie is revealed to speak French, and she uses it for a meaningless conversation in one scene.

    The young daughters are also sources that inconveniently defuse tension. As the family hides in a desk and needs to keep silent, Beeze announces that she has to go to the bathroom.

    Finally, the major culprit of unintentional hilarity is the sequence, highlighted in the trailer, when Jack has to throw his kids from a rooftop to another rooftop below. The scene is over-the-top in concept, but what elevates things to another level is the use of slow motion. A close-up on a terrified child’s face as she’s unceremoniously flung from a rooftop by her father turns out to be laugh-out-loud comedic gold.

    Jack’s mantra for survival is “to stay 10 steps ahead.” Though he and his family make it to safe territory, in the end, “No Escape,” despite being entertaining, can’t stay 10 steps ahead of its flaws.

    C


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.


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