no escape

Movie a Day Blog feels bad for Owen Wilson these days.

After a strong career comeback in Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011, Movie a Day 6/20/11), he made two films that were highly anticipated and barely registered:¬† ARE YOU HERE (2013), directed by “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, and SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY (2014), directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

NO ESCAPE (2015, Theatrical) will not be a career-booster. Vainly trying to recall his magical moment as an action star in BEHIND ENEMY LINES (2001), Wilson plays an engineer (not believable for a second) for a water monopoly who transports his family to a faux-Thailand and a new job when all hell breaks loose.

The country is never named, and Thailand is probably happy to remain anonymous. (The film company reportedly had to leave Thailand in a hurry near the end of production because of real-life political protests.)

In NO ESCAPE, the rioters are somewhere between Islamic terrorists and comic-book characters from the old “Terry and the Pirates” cartoon strip. I guess it’s still politically correct to demonize Asians who in this film choose to kill any white foreigner on sight. All because Wilson’s company is charging too much for water?

John Eric Dowdle, who wrote the film with his brother, and directed the somewhat interesting DEVIL (2010) and the far less interesting AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (2014), does a serviceable job of servicing the “family in jeopardy” genre.

His work doesn’t hold a candle to THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012), where a family wiped out by a natural disaster still found a way to stay together in a dramatically cohesive and moving way.

In NO ESCAPE, it’s all so programmatic, one close call after another, with a successful result guaranteed. The best gimmick is given away in the trailer, a father hurling his daughter off a tall building and hopefully landing her on the structure next door.

There are, of course, sacrificial lambs necessary to keep Wilson, his wife, Lake Bell and their two daughters safe, and Pierce Brosnan fills the role in NO ESCAPE. Brosnan seems to be enjoying a second career playing a an old rummy version of James Bond, the role he respectably  filled for more than a decade.

But even his energy flags as the situations confronting Wilson and family become ever more preposterous, and lead to characters taking actions that make little sense. Why would Bell offer herself up for rape and death when her husband and children were not in immediate jeopardy?

NO ESCAPE isn’t a bad movie; the suspense builds, we want everyone to escape and be happy, although the little girls are going to be making some therapists very wealthy.

It just isn’t an original movie in any sense. Wilson is all wide-eyed terror and determination simultaneously, and I spent most of the movie wishing Bell would open her eyes up and stop squinting.

Storytelling of this nature has been better done in a variety of wars, from Alfred Hitchcock’s THE WRONG MAN (1956) to the more recent and brilliant 71 (2014), on which I’ll post on shortly.

I hope Owen Wilson’s luck improves. He’s a likeable actor, and he deserves better material than this.




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