Pierce Brosnan is trying very hard to revitalize his career, reshaping himself in the mold of Liam Neeson, aging action star.
It certainly helps that Brosnan spent a decade in four high profile films as the iconic James Bond, cinema’s longest lasting character, crafting a niche for himself as a classier version of the action star actor. It’s these Brosnan Bond films like “GoldenEye” and “Tomorrow Never Dies” that helped to pave the way for Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne franchise and the passing of the spy torch to Daniel Craig, who will appear in his fourth Bond this fall with “Spectre.”
With last year’s “The November Man” and the large independent release “No Escape,” which debuted in theaters over the weekend, Brosnan begins his re-ascension back up the action star food chain with much success.
It’s a shame, however, that his journey has been waylaid by poor scripts, subpar directorial efforts and lack of studio backing. Otherwise Brosnan might be even further along.
“No Escape” finds the former Bond in a pivotal supporting role as a mysterious Brit who may or may not be in intelligence aiding a married couple (Owen Wilson and Lake Bell) and their two young girls while the family attempts to flee an unknown war-ravaged nation in Southeast Asia with a populace hell-bent on murdering foreigners – and especially Americans – publically in the streets.
The film itself is a mess of a feature, helmed by second-rate horror director John Erick Dowdle with a script he co-wrote with brother Drew. Its cultural insensitivies are rampant throughout the 103-minute running time, going beyond simply making a select group of villains all from a particular race as a traditional action film might.
There are over 150 “natives” shown to varying degrees in “No Escape,” yet only one character is bothered with long enough by the Dowdle brothers to even name – the American-loving, country music obsessed Kenny Roger, who only refers to himself by the name of his favorite singer because it’s too hard and isn’t worth learning his actual name.
None of the other Asian characters in the film have names — or even lines in English beyond a few minced phrases for that matter – nor does Dowdle provide subtitled translation of whatever dialogue the film’s non-English speaking cast uses. Their words, like their culture, are irrelevant to the film in the eyes of the filmmakers, a major disappointment.
Owen Wilson simply isn’t in the right film as his affable Texas charm and dry wit don’t really play in this lackluster thriller turned C-rate horror flick. Wilson’s a big enough name and decent enough actor to convince some viewers to care about his family’s plight, but even those viewers will start to run out of patience by the third or fourth time they narrowly cheat a seemingly inevitable death.
Best known for smaller roles in comedies, Lake Bell does an admirable job as the family’s mother, replacing a then-pregnant Michelle Monaghan who was attached to star. Having an action-adventure genre newcomer like Bell on screen helps “No Escape” feel more original than it actually is, and her presence does add a welcome layer of depth to an otherwise shallow, repetitive film.
Most of the action sequences are crippled by a disastrous insistence on slowing the frame rate down at the beginning of each major set piece, which is intended to hype up the audience for what’s about to happen, but only causes viewers to disengage from the film and wonder why Dowdle would ruin surprises in a thriller.
For example, early in the feature, the family races to the rooftop of their hotel to seek refuge from masses storming the building from below, hoping that an incoming helicopter will fly them to safety. As the chopper approaches, Dowdle slows the frame rate down, keying viewers in that something’s amiss well before they can actually see it for themselves, completely ruining the surprise.
Visually, scenes unaffected by this frame rate issue are generally appealing, especially early in the film during broad daylight. Dowdle struggles to make the best use of nighttime lighting, which is a shame given how much of the feature occurs after the sun goes down.
“No Escape” will likely leave audiences shaking their heads with how many contrived ways the family avoids death, though an above-average from Pierce Brosnan in a limited supporting role may be enough to keep audiences entertained throughout the majority of the film.