There’s a lot of tension, and a lot of just plain silliness, in the thriller “No Escape,” and your enjoyment will depend on how much you can focus on the former and ignore the hokum. The plot’s elementary, even for this sort of film — an American family abroad tries to elude hordes of murderous rebels — but the action sequences are stomach-tightening.
Otherwise, the film has an air of clumsiness that detracts from our enjoying the spectacle of Owen Wilson as an action hero, and relishing the (limited) presence of Pierce Brosnan, amusing as usual. “No Escape” is simply about run and hide and run again.
The Wilson character and his wife (Lake Bell) and two young daughters arrive in an unnamed Southeast Asian country where he is going to work for an American company. On the flight they encounter rough-and-tumble Brosnan, who takes a shine to the family and offers to arrange a ride to their hotel.
More detail is unnecessary. Soon a group of cutthroat rebels murder the country’s leader and begin a rampage directed at foreign exploiters and Asians who work for them. The victims are clubbed, shot, run over and eliminated in various brutal ways. With Brosnan’s help, the Wilson family tries to flee through the bloody streets to the American Embassy.
Why all the mayhem? It seems that the American government and its corporate backers are swindlers who take advantage of the locals. This is indicated in passing — and we’re also told that the rebels are just regular folks out to protect their families. Funny, they actually seem like vicious, sadistic and largely indiscriminate killers.
But again, the sequences of Wilson desperately shepherding his family through the rebel-packed streets really do the job. Director John Erick Dowdle, who also wrote the screenplay with his brother, Drew Dowdle, deserves that much credit. There’s nothing like two cute little girls in peril to inflate the tension level to white-knuckle territory.
It’s kill or be killed, and the Wilson character proves a capable protector, although he does suffer a momentary Wilsonesque lapse into inaction.
In short, this is a second-tier action film (clearly shot on a less-than-bottomless budget) with both virtues and problems. Strict plausibility isn’t necessary in these movies, and while “No Escape” doesn’t completely throw it out the window, it still inspires the occasional unintended giggle.