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No Escape: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

No Escape (2015) movie poster No Escape

Theatrical Release: August 26, 2015 / Running Time: 103 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: John Erick Dowdle / Writers: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle

Cast: Owen Wilson (Jack Dwyer), Lake Bell (Annie Dwyer), Sterling Jerins (Lucy Dwyer), Claire Geare (Beeze Dwyer), Pierce Brosnan (Hammond), Thanawut Kasro (Samnang), Chatchawan Kamonsakpitak (Prak), Sahajak Boonthanakit (Kenny Rogers), Tanapol Chuksrida (Krit)

Buy No Escape from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

Owen Wilson's career began as Wes Anderson's co-writer on Bottle Rocket, an indie caper in which he also dynamically starred. While he's reunited with Anderson many times over the years, though not as writer since 2001 and to decreasing significance on-camera, Wilson has also been employed in many various ways,
as comic foil to Ben Stiller in countless movies and sidekick to Jackie Chan in a pair of western action buddy comedies. He's done voices in family films, been a proud member of Vince Vaughn's Frat Pack, and gone off on his own to work with such respected filmmakers as Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, and James L. Brooks.

Immediately after Bottle Rocket, though, Wilson found work in supporting roles of action movies like Anaconda and Armageddon. He even got to play leading man in 2001's Behind Enemy Lines alongside Gene Hackman. Though that movie performed decently at the box office, Wilson decided to stick to comedy, in its many various forms, moving forward. The actor recently returned to action heroics, however, in No Escape, an R-rated potboiler from writer-director John Erick Dowdle and his brother/co-writer Drew, the duo behind Quarantine and As Above, So Below.

Oh wow, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) picked the wrong time to move his family to Southeast Asia, finding himself in the middle of a revolution in "No Escape."

Following a vague assassination of a prime minister, No Escape opens with Wilson in charming and funny dad mode. He plays Jack Dwyer, an American engineer who is moving his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two young daughters (Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare) to an unspecified Fourth World country in Southeast Asia. Having invented a valve that was nearly a big deal, Jack saw his own business go belly up and so he's here, hired by U.S. corporation Cardiff to revamp the nation's waterworks and provide clean water for all.

Though they've got a room at the swanky Imperial Lotus Hotel, the family of four doesn't seem to be in for a smooth transition. The hotel's phones, Internet, and TV aren't working, problems apparently not unheard of in these parts. The next morning, while trying to track down an English newspaper, Jack suddenly finds himself in the middle of a marketplace revolution, smack in between armored policemen and rock and stick-wielding rebels. With that, Jack leaps into John McClane mode, complete with sweaty shirt. He's dodging around back alleys and climbing up fire escapes. Turns out the Imperial Lotus is under siege and Americans are at great risk, having been subject to instant executions.

Jack reunites with the wife and kids and brings them up to the roof, where other foreigners are pinning their hopes on rescue. Once these hopes proved to be misplaced, the Dwyers try to find safety and shelter at the U.S. Embassy and across the border in Vietnam. Their only real ally is Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a coy undercover British intelligence officer whom the family first met on the plane over posing as a light, frequent recreational traveler. He knows the reasons for this uprising and may be the best shot the Dwyers have at defying the film's title.

The Dwyers find short-lived shelter on the roof of the Imperial Lotus Hotel.

No Escape is a pulse-pounding action vehicle. It serves up multiple thrills you feel in the pit of your stomach, from rooftop jumps to slowly approaching gunfire.
Though you have to suspend logic from time to time and accept the impossible number of close calls and convenient rescues befalling the Dwyers, the action keeps you glued and anxious as intended. The setting and characters distinguish the film from other international action movies. It is much easier to sympathize with a family in the wrong place at the wrong time than some superspy, although a family does seem ill-suited to survive this scenario.

Despite his extensive comic résumé, Wilson is still someone you can buy as an action movie protagonist, especially as this fish out of water who is thinking on his feet, driven only by the possibility of keeping his family safe and alive. Bell, also seasoned almost exclusively in comedy, is not fully up to the movie's modest dramatic challenges, but she is game for the ride, complete with cleavage-showcasing runs. The two child actors manage not to stand out, which is really all you want in a film that children should not be watching.

The Dowdles may be operating on the fringes of the Hollywood studios, their movies not good enough to land them bigger ones, but also not bad enough to send them to the domain of direct-to-video B-movies. No Escape is actually a pretty solid effort for the siblings, especially considering it's their first real action movie.

No Escape was something of an anomaly among The Weinstein Company releases. Here was a mainstream movie with no awards expectations or rollout plans. The studio assigned it an opening on the typically unremarkable final weekend of August and secured it their largest theater count outside of the Scary Movie franchise. The movie did just okay, though, debuting in fourth place narrowly behind a five-weeks-in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and ending up with a ho-hum $27.3 million domestic, which it matched overseas. Wilson has had his share of ups and downs at the box office, and this one wasn't up enough to anticipate him making more action movies anytime soon. His 2016 slate is already full with four comedies incorporating all the different facets of his career, from Zoolander 2 to Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some.

Arriving in stores a standard three months after opening in theaters and, advantageously, on the week of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, No Escape is now available to own on DVD and in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

No Escape Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: November 24, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided discs (BD-25 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Utilizing the 1.85:1 aspect ratio that most action movies avoid these days, No Escape looks absolutely terrific on Blu-ray. The stunning transfer nearly fills the screen and with all the clarity and vibrancy you could want. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also delights, putting you in the middle of the action just like the movie wants to.

Jack (Owen Wilson) shares a friendly elevator ride with Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) and his younger lady friend in this deleted scene. Filmmakers Drew and John Erick Dowdle discuss their filmmaking process in an audio commentary and behind-the-scenes shorts.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Three extras accompany No Escape on both Blu-ray and DVD.

First up is an audio commentary by the Dowdle brothers, writer-director John Erick and writer/producer Drew. They have informative and amusing anecdotes regarding financing setbacks, getting the approval of Kenny Rogers', filming in Thailand during a time of unrest and customs to follow there, the math of the improbable roof leaps and throws, and why they cast Owen Wilson (and recast the stuntman he was to fight). It's a decent listen should you want to give this decent film a second viewing.

On the video side, we get two standard inclusions, both of which the Blu-ray presents in HD.

First up are two deleted scenes (5:08), one of Jack at the hotel sharing an elevator with Hammond and planning a family Pool Day and the other in the heat of action showing Hammond coming unglued. They can be viewed with or without audio commentary by John Erick Dowdle.

Behind the Scenes consists of four short, standard EPK type pieces (13:40) made up primarily of film clips and interviews. The pieces are devoted to Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, and the Dowdle Brothers, with each of those people speaking about the job and others speaking about their work.

The discs open with a trailer for Southpaw, the only trailer on here, as No Escape's is not included.

The main menu loops a scored montage of filtered clips.

The silver DVD and full-color Blu-ray share a standard blue keepcase is topped by an embossed slipcover and adds a single-sided insert supplying Digital HD UltraViolet directions and a code. Amazon shows a sticker on the slipcover providing $7.50 movie cash towards seeing The Hateful Eight in theaters, but my review copy wielded no such offer.

Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) and family get an ally in the form of Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a rock star-like covert British agent functioning as Deus Ex Machina.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

No Escape is a distinctive and exciting action film. Though riddled with improbabilities, this Dowdle brothers movie keeps you watching with clenched fists. The Weinstein/Anchor Bay combo pack provides first-rate picture and sound plus a decent handful of extras. If you're partial to the genre or in the mood for something a little different, do give this movie a look.

Buy No Escape from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Owen Wilson:
Are You Here • Armageddon • Bottle Rocket • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou • Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights
How Do You Know • Inherent Vice • Midnight in Paris • The Big Year • Drillbit Taylor • Hall Pass



Lake Bell: In a World... • Over Her Dead Body • Million Dollar Arm • No Strings Attached
Pierce Brosnan: Survivor • I Don't Know How She Does It • Mrs. Doubtfire • The World's End
New to Blu-ray: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. • Ant-Man • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation • Southpaw • Pixels
The Impossible • Only God Forgives • Aftershock • Rush Hour 3 • The Game • World War Z

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Reviewed December 19, 2015.



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