Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
No Escape

No Escape

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 
Mayor Quimby: I hereby declare a state of emergency: Code Black.
Lenny: Black? That's the worst color there offense there, Carl.
Carl: I get it all the time. 

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Journey album covers out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis:
 White family flees from yellow peril.

Tagline: "Survive together or die together."

Better Tagline: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Things are (sort of) looking up for the Dwyer family. After a period of un/underemployment, father Jack (Owen Wilson) has landed a management gig at Cardiff, a company providing clean water to the inhabitants unspecified Southeast Asian country. His wife, Annie (Lake Bell), is reluctant, but willing to put on a brave face for their two young daughters, Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and "Beeze" (Claire Geare). Little things like questionable career choices tend to fall by the wayside, however, when the government of the country you're in is overthrown and the perpetrators are keenly interested in murdering foreigners. Can the Dwyers escape? And could the eccentric Brit known only as "Hammond" (Pierce Brosnan) be any assistance?

"Critical" Analysis:
John Erick Dowdle was probably, on paper, an acceptable choice to direct/co-write No Escape. His background in horror (The Poughkeepsie Tapes, Devil) would theoretically help keep the tension high, and he could effectively capture the brutality of a violent revolution (the movie's original title was The Coup). Of apparent lesser consideration was his ability to generate realism or create antagonists who aren't basically Asian versions of the "super rabies" zombies from Quarantine.

The story is a simple one: Father attempting to reassert control over his family with bold career move ends up doing so inadvertently, by leading them though a horrific war zone to safety. As a parent myself, I appreciate the helpful hints for families attempting to escape anti-American hordes (an ever-growing threat). Chief among these: When throwing your kids across gaps between buildings, be sure to push from your legs. Also, it really helps to have an ex-military/intelligence operative with local connections and small arms skills on hand.

Speaking of that, Brosnan is pretty good here. I wasn't a fan of most of his Bond work (Goldeneye excepted), but his late career playing semi-retired spook types — Tailor of Panama, The Matador, The November Man, Mamma Mia! (read between the lines, people) — has been mostly enjoyable to watch. Hammond saves the Dwyers' bacon more than a few times, which is unfortunately one of No Escape's many problems.

The aforementioned suspense works up to a point, except we know nothing is really going to happen to this family. That's apparent once Jack tosses his kids from a roof. Even then, there's a not insignificant amount of nail-biting to be had in the scenes showing them trying to sneak their way past the bad guys. This leads to several unpleasant encounters with rebel leader Samnang (Thanawut Kasro). After the first instance of Pierce ex machina, however, it becomes a little ridiculous.

And also more than a little racist. To start with, the country they're in is never specified. The movie was shot in Thailand, yet a key part of the plot is the importance of getting across the border to Vietnam, which...doesn't border Thailand. I just ended up calling the place "CamboThaiLaos," but it really doesn't matter. We learn the reason for the uprising in the third act, and Hammond even offers a brief apology to Jack for "people like me" who've created this situation for people like him (i.e., white expats with no apparent knowledge of the country they're visiting, its volatile anti-Western political climate or even the bare minimum of language necessary to ask for a goddamn newspaper).

But I'm not sure why Dowdle even bothered, because Samnang and his gang of revolutionary murder-bots don't appear to be interested in any domestic policy initiatives other than hacking people to death. Oh, and trying to rape Annie (I'm guessing some of the dialogue we couldn't understand at the beginning was, "Where de white wimmen at?"). And if we want to get into questions of realism, let me just say there's an event in the movie that — were it to occur in a real-world scenario involving a country like this with heavy U.S. financial interests (and not, say, Rwanda) — would have brought multiple Marine Force Recon battalions rolling up Main Street instead of the tactical equivalent of chirping crickets.

And that might be No Escape's most implausible aspect, sadly enough.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar