The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey @michael­bodey

DVD Let­ter­box had the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing told this week by some help­ful par­ents at school that our young au­teur is con­sid­ered the class clown. At least he’s not the class id­iot. But it does mean if he ever tries show busi­ness, he’ll never be con­sid­ered as se­ri­ously as the class swots who be­come the cold, tech­ni­cal — and crit­i­cally ac­claimed — ac­tors.

Class clowns, or at least comic ac­tors, may get the laughs but aren’t lauded, and many never win Academy Awards, no mat­ter how good their per­for­mances — just ask Ed­die Mur­phy, Sarah Sil­ver­man or Jim Car­rey. (Roberto Benigni is the ex­cep­tion that proves the rule.)

Owen Wil­son is a co­me­dian, al­beit one whose la­conic per­sona is al­most as in­deli­ble as any height­ened com­edy he de­liv­ers in films by Wes An­der­son or oth­ers such as Zoolander. His range is lim­ited and, to his credit, he hasn’t tried to stretch it. That makes his ap­pear­ance in this week’s re­lease, No Es­cape, in­trigu­ing.

Di­rected by John Erick Dow­dle and cowrit­ten by him with his brother Drew, the film works as a B-grade thriller (but won’t do any­thing for political re­la­tions be­tween East and West). The mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion is: can view­ers over­come the Owen Wil­son-ness of the lead char­ac­ter?

Wil­son plays cool dad and young busi­ness­man Jack Dwyer, who lands, with his wife An­nie (Lake Bell) and their two young daugh­ters (Ster­ling Jerins and Claire Geare) in a South­east Asian na­tion on the day of a coup (the coun­try is un­named but it was shot in Thai­land and bor­ders Viet­nam, so let’s take an ed­u­cated guess and say: Cam­bo­dia).

Jack and fam­ily are there through ne­ces­sity, tak­ing a job with a US cor­po­ra­tion that de­liv­ers much-needed in­fra­struc­ture. Af­ter a rather bru­tal up­ris­ing and at­tack on their ho­tel, Jack re­alises Westerners are be­ing tar­geted due to, well, some angst about cul­tural im­pe­ri­al­ism (or some­thing). Mo­ti­va­tions, for the coup or any char­ac­ter, are slight in this pacy but by-the-num­bers screen­play.

No Es­cape (MA15+, Road­show, 103min, $29.95) be­comes a chase film that, ad­mit­tedly, proves rather thrilling as the fam­ily ne­go­ti­ates the pe­cu­liar­i­ties and per­ils of a lawless for­eign land.

Just don’t think through its in­sen­si­tiv­ity in us­ing the one-di­men­sional, evil ori­en­tal ”other” as a threat to US no­bil­ity. A late sigh by a Brit ex­pat (played en­ter­tain­ingly by Pierce Bros­nan) is the only apol­ogy in a film not pre­tend­ing to build char­ac­ter­i­sa­tions or nu­ance.

Wil­son drops his la­conic comic per­sona for a win­ning ev­ery­man char­ac­ter who doesn’t be­come stupidly heroic.

It works in this grim, tense tale cum low­bud­get hor­ror. Just don’t bother try­ing to parse its pol­i­tics.


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