No Escape: Violent, but superficial

No Escape will speak strongly to anyone who has encountered some form of mob violence — one of the scariest forces on our planet, and one which is capable of turning perfectly normal people into violent crazies. The movie’s asset is its portrayal of the mind-numbing brutality of a mindless mob. The violence feels all-too-real in this thriller that has you on the edge of your seat by throwing one action sequence after another at you. Director John Erick Dowdle, who co-wrote the script with his brother Drew Dowdle, clearly knows how to handle action. Unfortunately, there’s little else to back it up. The film makes no attempt to explain the simmering resentments that have erupted into this orgy of violence.

At the centre of the movie is Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) — an American businessman seeking a new life in an unspecified Southeast Asian country — along with his wife Annie (Lake Bell), and two young daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare). Dwyer has come to work at a water purification plant that he believes will bring clean water to needy people — a plotline not fleshed out at all. Things seem a bit awry when the Dwyers deplane to discover there’s no one to meet them from Jack’s employer. However, Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a shady white man with a peculiar accent, and his cab-driving friend Kenny Rogers (Sahajak Boonthanakit), give them a ride to the hotel. The family is less than pleased with the hotel amenities, but their real problems turn out to be considerably more serious than a TV that doesn't work. Unwittingly, the Dwyers have landed at the precise time of an unfolding coup. There has been an assassination, and the country is about to explode into a bloody political uprising.

Genre:Action Thriller
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Cast: Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Lake Bell
Storyline: An American family relocating to Southeast Asia is caught in the crossfire of political upheaval and mob violence
The action in No Escape opens promisingly enough as a slow burn: Jack walks out of the hotel to buy himself a newspaper and runs smack into the uprising. The rest of the film is pretty much one endless chase sequence punctuated by butchering mobs and fleeing Dwyers.

While you understand the director’s decision to use the trope of the anonymous rampaging mob — instead of specific villains — given that both the local population and expatriates are at the receiving end of the violence, the valorisation of the ‘white protagonists’ is deeply problematic. Wilson, known for his goofy comic roles, is cast against type but acquits himself well. Cinematographer Leo Hinstin uses kinetic camerawork to ratchet up the tension. Also, the look of the film — shot in Chiang Mai, Thailand — is authentic.

But the refusal to understand the local population of the story undercuts the good stuff in the film and gives it some xenophobic overtones. There is little insight into the politics, save for a speech about the perils of Western capitalism in the third world that seems shoehorned into the latter half of the film. This high-octane action thriller is unfortunately fuelled by some pretty dodgy politics.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 6:20:08 PM |

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