Published Aug 28, 2015It seems as if the plot for No Escape, horror director John Erick Dowdle's new action thriller starring Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, was modeled after a Middle American family's worst nightmare.
Due to a lack of job prospects at home in the U.S., Jack Dwyer (Wilson), a Texas engineer, and his wife Annie (Bell) are forced to move with their two daughters to a nameless Southeast Asian country in the hopes of starting a new, more prosperous life. But, literally a day after their arrival, a major coup occurs, leading to roving gangs of thugs patrolling the city and assassinating any foreigners they come across.
With Wilson's character having one of the biggest targets on his back due to his connection to a company that has taken over the water supply in the region — a plot point that is presented but never thoroughly discussed — the Dwyer clan must do all sorts of acrobatic and aggressive stunts in order to survive (including, but not limited to, Jack and Annie throwing their daughters from skyscraper to skyscraper, hiding under corpses and bludgeoning people to death with seemingly any instrument they can find).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is its casting. So far, Wilson and Bell have been primarily relegated to comedic roles, and it's interesting to watch them attempt a more serious film (as silly a setup as it is). They succeed, for the most part, with each actor expressing the innate fear, grief and confusion that one would imagine comes with being caught in a war zone. Too bad their characters are one-dimensional and the supporting cast is even worse.
Work on No Escape seems to have initially begun a year or two after the Arab Spring, and it's hard not to see the whole thing as some sort of extension of the fear a few Fox News-watching Westerners probably experienced at the time. The country's inhabitants are seen only as faceless marauders (or corpses under which to take shelter), and the only people who actually help the Dwyer family on their journey out of the country are other foreigners (namely Pierce Brosnan's character Hammond, a light-hearted special agent from the UK who deserves more screen time), except for one local special forces operative moonlighting as a tuk-tuk driver, and he's about as Americanized as possible (his vehicle is named after Kenny Rogers).
Watching No Escape is meant to be a thrilling experience, and for those who fear cultures they don't quite understand, it just might be. For everyone else, this film will oscillate unsatisfyingly between vaguely thrilling to vaguely offensive.