Tourism horror (Hostel, Turistas, etc) from the brothers who previously dropped us into demon-plagued underground Paris (quelle souterreur! Pas vraiment), No Escape is stupidly political. Spiritually, that title’s a warning to your soul, via your vulnerable eye-windows. This is like watching The Amazing Race remixed as a disaster-film and stewed into The Killing Fields as a base-flavour of anti-Asian racism simmers hatefully up from the bottom of the pot.
An American family—water-company engineer Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), wife Annie (Lake Bell), daughters Lucy and Beeze—having just moved to an unnamed Southeast-Asian country, finds themselves caught in a coup d’état. The moment Jack sees Unnamed White Guy murdered in the street, it’s clear Americans are especially ripe targets for all these marauding Eastern hordes’ machetes. It’s a savage, jungle-style hack-attack—in hotels, offices, shops. Only four natives, all men, help the never-say-Dwyers, resolutely led by Macho Dad, along the way: one says nothing amid a scary street crowd; one’s old and kindly; one wants Jack’s watch and shoes in return; one’s an ever-grinning, Kenny Rogers-loving pal of “British CIA” guy Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), who executes 007-style shootouts to help everyone’s favourite Yankee Clan Brimming Over With Love.
The xenophobia tailspins on, reaching peak-plummet-speed when Annie, captured by the posse of nasties long pursuing them like demon-hounds, is immediately almost raped (only to be saved by Super-Hammond). Vietnam’s just half-a-mile downriver, though—so convenient in a sudden SE-Asia travel emergency! (Cambodia, implied as the story’s setting, has a strong case for cultural libel here.)
Forget that there’s never been a coup like this in the region. Never mind Annie’s panicking-female stereotype. Shrug off Hammond’s explanation of the West’s meddling, so simplistic that even a 9/11-truther would scoff. Because it’s not just the fetid feeling that “Slant-Eyed Devils!!!” may as well be blazoned in a scarlet chop-suey font on screen. It’s all the political turmoil and revolt here as revolting horror—with so many scattered dead and live Asian bodies just obstacles for America’s No 1 tighty-whitey family—that makes No Escape an atrocity in its retrograde, racist exploitation of civil strife for cheap and nasty, low-down dirty, tawdrily thrilling ends.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle