Owen Wilson hasn’t been in a full-on dramatic role in years, so it’s nice to see him jumping in the saddle for No Escape (not to be confused with the 1994 Ray Liotta film with the same name). The film began shooting in late 2013 and has since had its release date moved around a few times. But in finally seeing the film, one can understand why. It’s a run-of-the-mill thriller that teases the politics behind it while making the minority cast in the film look like crazed lunatic terrorists. Aside from certain aspects that make it semi-entertaining, No Escape is a bit below average.
Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) has just uprooted his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and two daughters (Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare) to Southeast Asia (the exact country is never mentioned, because that would just add salt to the wound) for a mid-manager level job for Cardiff, a water company. Jack naively thinks he’s there to help the country, but all the events that follow prove otherwise. After being stranded without a welcome caravan at the airport, Jack and Annie meet Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a tourist who’s frequented the unnamed country “for the women.” Finding the family in a pickle, Hammond and his friend, who goes by the name Kenny Rogers (Sahajak Boonthanakit), opt to drive them to their hotel.
Quite literally overnight, everything goes to hell after violent protesters take over the streets, assassinate the prime minister, and turn into lethal hunters in search of the three Americans (including Jack and any other foreigner they can get their hands on) who were sent in to help run the water company. There is a legitimate reason the country has suddenly turned into a war zone and its people rabid and hungry for blood, but revealing anything more would ruin the point of the movie (a point that doesn’t get enough attention and is more of a passing afterthought). Scared and understanding the severity of the situation, if not necessarily the reasoning behind it, the Dwyer family must struggle to stay alive until they can find a way out of the suddenly claustrophobic-seeming country.
Other than being somewhat racist, No Escape is solely focused on Owen Wilson and his movie family. It’s a chase movie in its purest form, a movie that could have been a political thriller if allowed to have opened up its points of view a bit more. Centered solely on this Caucasian family with the Southeast Asians looking like the bad guys doesn’t make the movie very appeasing since it’s all too one-sided, with 99% of the non-white cast being creepy, trigger-happy psychos. This entire aspect is contrived and although the reason behind the mass destruction and killings is explained much later in the film, pointing a finger at perhaps the true culprits who led these people down their road of violence, it’s entirely too late and doesn’t make them look any less guilty and makes the lead characters look all the more victimized.
Brushing my frustration with the political premise off for a second, No Escape does have a few things to offer and doesn’t slide too far down the hole of terrible filmmaking. Director John Erick Dowdle (As Above, So Below) knows when to use the shaky cam method to increase the suspense and doesn’t overdo it. There’s good family chemistry between Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and the child actors, and the action and thriller aspect can be a bit draining at times because this is the entire movie, but it still keeps you watching at least. Pierce Brosnan’s character is far too convenient sometimes, showing up when he’s most needed, but his role in the whole ordeal makes this pill easier to swallow. Regardless of some of the thrills and suspense, No Escape is a bit too bleak and not in the least willing to compromise on a different point of view. Perhaps Dowdle and his brother Drew didn’t want to make the story too convoluted and complicated, but one can’t help but think that this politically-charged thriller has a gaping missing piece.
Release Date: August 26, 2015 | Director: John Erick Dowdle | Screenwriters: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle | Cast: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan | Genre: Action, Thriller | MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including a sexual assault and for language