Had the State Department only tweeted a few #platitudes, Owen Wilson would not have found himself smack in the middle of a violent coup in an unnamed Southeast Asia country in the gripping action thriller “No Escape” from Minnesota-native director John Erick Dowdle.
Wilson brings his family to a city on the Vietnamese border where his company has transferred him to develop their waterworks. But the fresh start for him is short-lived. Early on, he ventures away from his hotel, a spot popular with foreign businesspeople, for a newspaper and finds himself between rebels and police.
From there, it becomes one of the most cinematically intense cat-and-mouse games as the rebels, having already assassinated their prime minister, begin massacring every foreigner in the hotel, savagely, floor by floor, with guns, machetes, in fact, any means necessary.
Wilson, his wife (Lake Bell) and their two young daughters first make their way to the typical sanctuary in these types of films, the American embassy, only to find the insurgents have already slaughtered everyone there. (The parallels to Benghazi are stark, though probably unintentional.)
Regrouping, they find safe haven in a churchyard but, again, for only moments until violence finds them. A mysterious penitent British agent (Pierce Brosnan) and his local counterpart nicknamed Kenny Rogers — an über-fan of the country music legend — rescue and point them in the direction of the Vietnam border, presumably where they will be safe to enjoy Saturdays shopping at the Nike factory store.
At one point too late in the film, Brosnan attempts to explain the muddled justification for the brutality, something about the rebels fighting for their own families against the evil multinational corporations subjugating them. But while their hatred is vivid, the rationalization is specious. Thankfully, motive isn’t tremendously relevant to the entertainment value here.
First and foremost, this is the rare edge-of-your-seat adventure with heart-pounding action sustained from beginning to end.
Wilson does a fair job playing against his quirky typecasting, and Brosnan, perhaps in homage to his Bond days, pulls off the grizzled aging agent reckoning with his past.
Well-written and riveting.