By the time you read this, the summer movie season will be dead. It will be found on its front porch slumped over in a kiddie pool filled with partially eaten Nathan’s hot dogs. Some say it died of natural causes, but I say it died of a broken heart.
People just stopped caring.
Sure, all of you came out to see “Straight Outta Compton” but where were all of you when “Fantastic Four” arrived in theaters? What were you doing when “Sinister 2” was playing in your local movie house? Something better? Probably.
“Fantastic Four” and “Sinister 2” are very terrible movies. Nonetheless, by the time “No Escape” arrived in theaters, summer movie season had lost its will to live. Unloved and unwatched, summer movie season passed knowing the world couldn’t be bothered. Which is as it should be because, seriously, have you seen “No Escape?” I mean, seriously, have you seen it? Because, oof. Y’know? Oof.
If you’re not familiar with the name John Erick Dowdle, you’re probably familiar with his work. And by that, I mean you’ve caught a few minutes of “Devil” or “As Above, So Below” on Cinemax and watched it until you realized there are many other channels with several other things to watch. His latest, “No Escape,” continues his amazing ability of making audiences wonder what’s on Bravo right now and if it’s happening in the form of a reunion episode of some kind.
In “No Escape,” Owen Wilson plays a befuddled father who has the unfortunate luck to relocate his family to an unnamed, very Malaysia-esque country just as the current dictatorship is toppled in a bloody coup. Said coup was brought on because of the former government’s corrupt ties with Wilson’s new bosses at a water pump company called Cardiff. Soon enough Wilson, his wife Lake Bell and his two, incredibly stupid and shockingly oblivious daughters (Claire Geare and Sterling Jerins) are on the run from an angry mob, who we’re assured are merely throwing a violent coup in order to protect their families but are repeatedly depicted as mindless, bloodthirsty hordes that aren’t above holding a gun to the forehead of a six-year-old girl as they giggle maniacally.
One of the most troubling aspects behind “No Escape” is its simplistic and very muddled politics. The film does have something to say about American imperialism and how Western influences frequently exploit the third world but this message is lost among the scenes where savage third-world inhabitants charge through their exotic (e.g. scarily foreign) surroundings as they rape and slaughter all of the white things that cross their path. Basically “No Escape” is “Night of the Living Dead” if it was reworked by that one guy at work who supports Trump because, “he’s just saying what we’re all thinking!”
If Asian characters aren’t depicted as relentless bogeymen they’re ineffective dullards or walking punchlines (like the cab driver obsessed with Kenny Rogers. Get it? Asian people don’t typically enjoy Kenny Rogers! Comedy Joketime!)
“No Escape” is incoherently edited and frequently undercuts suspense with inexplicable creative choices. Why does the film take a brief time out from a harrowing cat and mouse set-piece so that Geare’s character could summon up the courage to go to the bathroom in her pants (and while we’re at it, why do Geare and Jerin’s characters seem to be just vaguely aware of the danger they’re in? Even the slowest, most self-involved child could probably realize that you shouldn’t expect your father to tell you a story when you’re sitting on the ledge of a 14th story window as a tank turret is slowly being leveled against you and your family).
On the plus side, the performances are strong. Wilson and Bell both manage to add humanity to characters that are – as written – little more than distressed Land’s End catalog models. Pierce Brosnan is a lot of fun in his all-too-brief role as a lovably scummy, cockney ex machina who at one point announces he’s going to wear sweatpants to a strip club, “so they’ll know (he) means business.” Unfortunately, everything else about this movie is ill-advised and uninvolving. At the very least, “No Escape” is a comforting reminder that summer movie season is dead, buried and can’t hurt us anymore (at least until 2016).
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan
Director: John Eric Dowdle
Weekender Rating: WV