NO ESCAPE (USA/15A/103mins)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle. Starring Lake Bell, Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Claire Geare, Sterling Jerins
THE PLOT: Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) and his family move to an unnamed Asian country to start a new life, 17 hours before a bloody coup over the country’s water facilities breaks out. Jack, his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two children must fight their way through the city to safety, while knowing that if caught, they will be executed.
THE VERDICT: is a strange little movie in some ways; it is Owen Wilson’s first dramatic role since BEHIND ENEMY LINES – released in Ireland in 2002 – and although there are times when slo-mo is overused, the film is a decent and competent thriller.
Owen Wilson and Lake Bell really don’t have a huge amount to do here, except run away and look scared, but the scenes with their two young daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare) are rather delightful, giving a feel of natural and gentle camaraderie, and family love. Bell in particular is great with the young actresses, and her protective instinct as a mother, and heartbreak over having to tell her daughter to wet herself as they hide feel natural and real. Pierce Brosnan turns up as a mysterious man whose seeming drunkenness is a cover for something larger, and he makes the character funny, endearing and just a little bit badass. Sahajak Boonthanakit rounds out the cast as a taxi driver who goes by the name of Kenny Rogers.
The story, written for the screen by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle – who previously brought us horror movies QUARANTINE and AS ABOVE, SO BELOW – seems to follow the formula of an over the top 80s action movie for the first half, but then settles into the story being told and dials down the action movie tropes. The film ramps up the tension and, although there are perhaps one too many fight scenes, the action serves to develop the characters a little further, rather than being just action for action’s sake. We never learn exactly which Asian country the film is set in – although the country shares a border with Vietnam so a logical guess could be China, Laos, or Cambodia – but this doesn’t matter after the first moments of the film, and since most of the Asian players here are portrayed as bloodthirsty and violent, perhaps its a good job.
As director John Erick Dowdle seems a little uncomfortable with taking on the action mantle at first, and plays up the emotion between the family, as well as the aforementioned slow-mo, but becomes more comfortable as the film goes on. The violence is surprisingly bloody and visceral, and the tension mounts throughout the film – dissipating slightly as the film lumbers to a drawn out and seemingly pointed close.
In all, NO ESCAPE is a surprisingly engaging thriller. It’s refreshing to see Bell and Wilson in non-comedic roles, an their chemistry together, as well as with the young actresses who play their daughters – is sweet and warm. The film starts off like a conventional action thriller, before becoming tense and dark, bloody and highly violent scenes, but runs out of steam in the final act.
Review by Brogen Hayes

No Escape
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Tense and dark
  • filmbuff2011

    Originally titled The Coup, Asian-set urban chase thriller No Escape plays on fears of anti-American sentiment in less well-developed parts of the world. Jack Dwyer
    (Owen Wilson) is an American engineer who arrives in an unnamed Southeast Asian country (clue: it borders Vietnam). He’s starting a new life with his family –
    wife Annie (Lake Bell) and young daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze
    (Claire Geare). They meet friendly, slightly boozy ex-pat Hammond (Pierce
    Brosnan) on the plane and he gives them a lift to their international hotel.
    Just hours after arriving and settling into the hotel, there’s a coup and the
    President is assassinated. Armed thugs storm the streets, mowing down the
    police and executing foreigners, particularly Americans, on the spot. They’re
    reacting violently to anti-American feelings regarding a water plant that Jack
    will be manager of. The thugs break into the hotel and make their way up to
    Jack’s room. Grabbing his family and running for their lives, Jack will have to
    find a way to keep his family alive in this alien and hostile environment…
    For the first half, No Escape has a lot of good potential going for it. There’s
    a panicky sense of danger, as anarchy descends on the streets and thinking man
    Jack turns into a man of action. As Straw Dogs has shown, push a man too far
    and he’ll snap. There’s a signature sequence on the hotel roof that is
    genuinely heart-stopping and provokes audiences to ask that same question: what
    would you do to protect your family? The second half of the film is less
    successful, essentially copying The Purge: Anarchy as the Dwyer Family hides
    out from a group of thugs that always seem to find them. There’s a definite
    feeling of momentum being lost and the story, by director John Erick Dowdle and
    his brother Drew, limps towards an OK conclusion. Thankfully, it doesn’t involve
    the cavalry arriving in the form of Chinooks and US Marines. That would be too
    much. There is a xenophobic feeling about the film which is a little
    off-putting. There are few sympathetic Asian characters in the story, but
    little time is given to them. It would have been more balanced if Hammond had
    been an Asian character. Wilson may not seem like the most likely choice for an
    action hero (it’s been a while since Behind Enemy Lines), but there’s an
    everyman quality to him that makes him more relatable than, say, Dwayne
    Johnson. Brosnan lends good support, even if he can’t decide where his accent
    is based (it starts Australian and then turns English). The Dowdle brothers,
    who made last year’s underwhelming underground horror As Above, So Below keep the story moving though and stage some tense, palm-sweating scenes. No Escape is flawed for sure, but it’s still moderately entertaining and is worth seeing
    for the first half alone. ***

  • emerb

    Writer-director John Erick Dowdle brings us “No Escape”, an exciting, tense and gripping family survival action thriller starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan. The basic premise is that of an ordinary innocent family on the run through an unnamed Southeast Asian city, pursued by a ruthless mob of murderous killers and bloody savages who will stop at nothing until they have eliminated all foreigners.

    Engineer Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) transplants his reluctant family – wife Annie (Lake Bell) and young daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare) – from the familiarity of Austin, Texas to an unstable south Asian nation. The location isn’t actually named but all the geographic cues point to events taking place in Cambodia, although Thailand actually served as the real location. Jack’s small business has gone bankrupt and after taking a job with an American
    corporation active in Asia, he is due to take up work on their water-purifying operation. The family jets in on a night flight, hoping for a new life in this exotic faraway land. On the journey they encounter the flamboyant, lively English tourist Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a regular visitor to this corner of Asia, lured by its sleazy nightlife. What initially looks like a promising new start turns into a nightmare as they are confronted by a dilapidated wreck of a city where a coup and the resulting unrest has made it a particularly hellish place for foreigners. After arriving at their luxury hotel, they witness chaotic scenes in the streets outside where angry mobs are on the rampage, seizing control of the city and executing Westerners on sight. It isn’t long before the entire hotel is under siege,
    the American embassy is sacked and riots escalate into a full blown civil war. As the situation becomes increasingly dangerous for the Dwyers, Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) comes to their aid. He also explains that Jack’s corporate employers, who have projected an image of benevolent social responsibility, are extremely unpopular with the local citizens. They are viewed as exploiting invaders, having privatized the water supply for profit and this is the immediate cause of the uprising. The rest of the film is devoted to the escape and involves the family frantically fleeing murderous guerrillas, leaping from rooftops, hiding in shadowy back streets, and being forced to make life-threatening decisions

    The character building sequences take place early on where we are introduced to a wholesome, happy and affectionate family. Neither Owen Wilson nor Lake Bell would seem like a natural fit for their roles but surprisingly enough they turn out to be perfect choices. It certainly is a very unlikely detour into action-hero for the traditionally funny man Wilson and this rare excursion outside his comfort zone proves he is a versatile actor. While ruthless skills don’t come easily to such
    an affable, laid-back fellow, he is nonetheless credible and portrays his character well. Bell replaced originally cast Michelle Monaghan shortly before the shoot and she is convincing in her role of the hero’s terrified yet capable, courageous and resourceful spouse. Jerins and Geare both ramp up the suspense at just the right moments and this has the effect of drawing us more deeply into the situation. Brosnan doesn’t have a lot of screen time, his Hammond is a secondary character who is not around for many of the most dangerous situations but yet he perfoms well, serving as a plot explainer and even adding an element of comic relief.

    Director Dowdle, who also co-wrote with his brother Drew, has a track record in somewhat successful found-footage horror movies (“Quarantine”, “As Above So Below”) and this action movie is certainly a step up for him. He has invested more money, bigger stars and has a more modern plotline. He manages to deliver enough adrenalized tension, an ever-present sense of threat, graphic violence and suspense to keep you engaged and focussed while also showing a good degree of confidence and skill in how he handles a number of the action scenes. “No Escape” may not boast enhanced special effects nor overblown action stunts but it successfully captures the drama and horrors of an ordinary family caught up in extraordinary perilous circumstances and that’s what makes it so compelling. It maintains its intensity from start to finish and, for me, it provided a very entertaining night out.