No Escape is not the movie we've come to expect from Dallas-born Owen Wilson. If you're looking for Wedding Crashers or Shanghai Noon or Zoolander, you've checked into the wrong hotel, dude.
Wilson's character in No Escape soon finds out that he and his family (wife and two young daughters) have checked into the Worst Hotel on Earth. Will checking out even be possible?
Soon after leaving Austin for an indefinite stay in this isolated Asian paradise, they discover that, overnight, the government they assumed would welcome them with open checkbooks is gone - seized by terrorists.
We are then immersed in a nearly two-hour thrill ride that, tired cliché that it is, really does keep you on the edge of your seat. Wilson is utterly believable as a dad whose protectiveness toward his kids is put to the ultimate test. Lake Bell, a fine choice of casting and underrated as an actress, conveys the pain of a wife and mom who's trapped. She and Wilson share a sweet chemistry.
For the most part, this is a harrowing ride that in the midst of its mayhem struggles to zero in on an underlying point. It pursues its deeper meaning as frenetically as Wilson and Bell seek an exit from the hell they find themselves in. Be forewarned: There are some brutal scenes near the end that no kid should see; they're tough enough for adults.
Those on the left may complain that the movie plays into political talking points about foreign terrorism posing our greatest threat.
Those on the right might not like the insight offered by Pierce Brosnan's character that Western imperialism lies at the heart of terrorist rage. Wilson's Jack Dwyer has come to the country to modernize its water system, creating what Brosnan's Hammond contends is a violent rage fueled by getting stuck with an unwanted debt. In other words, "Leave us alone."
What's far more fascinating is to focus on Wilson's growth as an actor and the new path he's charting, much as his Wedding Crashers buddy Vince Vaughn did in Season 2 of HBO's True Detective. Wilson proves he can handle a role utterly devoid of comedy and do so admirably.
Now 46, he offers a compelling look into a new phase of a career that, since the 1994 release of the short version of Bottle Rocket, has been headed one way - up.
No Escape (B)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle. R (strong violence throughout and for language). 101 mins. In wide release.