Production companies: Bold Films, Brothers Dowdle Productions
Cast: Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Sahajak Boonthanakit
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Screenwriters: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Producers: Drew Dowdle, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak
American tourists fight for their lives during a violent Third World uprising in director John Erick Dowdle’s action thriller starring Owen Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan.
An unlikely detour into action-hero territory for Owen Wilson, No Escape is a pedestrian but modestly gripping nerve-jangler from writer-director John Erick Dowdle. Set in a politically unstable southeast Asian nation, the timely script by Dowdle and his brother, Drew Dowdle, feeds off the perennial unease of Americans on foreign soil, evoking real events from the fall of Saigon to more recent massacres by Islamist terrorists. Originally titled The Coup, the film was renamed following poor early test screenings, reportedly because audiences were confused by the word “coup”.
No Escape takes place in an unnamed “fourth world” nation with strong overtones of Cambodia, though Thailand serves as the real location. In the preamble, the country’s crooked military ruler is assassinated by ruthless revolutionaries just as young businessman Jack Dwyer (Wilson) and his family jet in on their night flight from America, heading for a new life in an exotic faraway land. On the journey they encounter the loud-shirted English tourist Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a regular visitor to this corner of Asia, apparently lured by its sleazy nightlife.
In high-concept plot terms, that is pretty much all No Escape has to offer. Dwyer and his family spend the rest of the movie frantically fleeing murderous guerrillas, leaping from rooftops, hiding in shadowy back streets, and committing lethal acts of self-defense. The characters are two-dimensional at best, or no-dimensional when it comes to the nameless Asian bad guys, bloodthirsty savages straight out ofTeam America: World Police. But Dowdle shows a confident hand in the action scenes, which mostly have the kinetic, hand-held, visceral feel of genuine war-zone reportage.
Essentially one long white-knuckle chase fleshed out with minimal dramatic ballast, No Escape is as emotionally nuanced as a punch in throat. The bombastic score, by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, hammers home the point that this is a thrill ride for the nerves, not the brain. All the same, Dowdle delivers enough adrenalized tension to maintain his track record of profitable, populist pulp.