‘No Escape’s’ tension diluted by stereotypical caricatures
By Bob Bloom
“No Escape” is a nerve-tingling chase drama that, despite suspecting the finale, still holds your attention.
The film stars Owen Wilson as an American mid-level executive who relocates his family to a Southeast Asian country so he can work on a waterworks project.
The country remains unnamed, but because it borders Vietnam, only a few nations can be the likely suspects.
Within a day of arriving, Wilson and his family find themselves in the middle of a violent political upheaval in which the nation’s prime minister is assassinated and foreigners, especially those working for the water company, are marked for death.
The bulk of the movie follows Wilson, his wife, played by Lake Bell, and their two daughters running and hiding for their lives, as they seek safety, shelter and sanctuary.
The tension is palatable as the Dwyer family flees from one encounter to another with fanatical rebels — who want to kill them simply because they are Americans — on their heels.
And while the action is engrossing, the movie has a mean and racist underpinning that makes it unsettling viewing.
The Asian rebels are nameless, faceless caricatures portrayed as murderous, uncivilized brutes who only seem to want to kill and loot.
The simple explanation for their actions is they are angry about the foreign-influenced waterworks, which they believe will make them slaves to Western interests.
However, that does not justify or explain their thorough and monstrous disregard for human life.
It seems everyone they come in contact with, Asian or Caucasian, who is wearing Western-style clothing is a target.
Because these rebels are depicted in such inhumane and stereotypical manners, it somehow diminishes the menace, reducing them almost to cartoonish travesties, like characters out of a World War II-era propaganda film.
Wilson gives a strong turn as a family man in over his head, wanting only to get his loved ones to safety. He is scared, at times unsure, conflicted and confused, but wily and alert enough to grasp the situation and take advantage of opportunities to keep his wife and daughters out of harm’s way.
The character development is rather weak, with a subtext hinting of family dissension about relocating from Austin, Texas, to a Third World nation, but most of it is lost in the clatter of gunfire and explosions.
“No Escape” is intense; that cannot be questioned. However, it would have been a much better film if those trying to kill the Dwyers were allowed to display some humanity, instead of simply acting as remorseless and mindless killing machines like creatures in a zombie apocalypse feature.
This major miscalculation dilutes the film’s potential, reducing it to the level of a B-movie potboiler.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
2 stars out of 4
(R), graphic and bloody violence, language