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‘No Escape’ is Uneven but Incredibly Intense

No_Escape_(2015_film)_posterWell that was intense.

“No Escape” stars Owen Wilson and Lake Bell as parents who move their family from America to Asia, just as a bloody revolution gets underway (hate when that happens). With the aid of Pierce Brosnan, they must make their way to the American embassy. John Erick Dowdle directs and co-writes.

When I saw the trailer for “No Escape,” I laughed. Aside from the unintentionally hilarious slow-motion kid tossing (more on that in a second), I couldn’t imagine a world where Owen Wilson could be taken seriously in a gloomy drama like this. But after seeing the film, I owe Owen (lol) an apology: he and the film aren’t that bad.

For what it sets out to do, the film does very well; this is an incredibly intense and at times very uncomfortable viewing experience. So if you thought films like “Ant-Man” or “Mission: Impossible” were too fun or feel-good summer romps, then here’s what will quench your late summer thirst.

There are several seriously intense sequences in this film, and most of it is attributed to director Erick Dowdle. Whether it is Wilson trying to outrun a group of revolutionaries up a ladder, or tossing his kids off a roof to escape said revolutionaries (hold on, I’m almost to that), the film knows where to place the camera and how often to switch angels to create an uneasy, edge-of-your-seat feeling.

OK, so about this slow-motion child chucking. It’s in the trailer, and I hoped it would stay there, because I laughed when seeing it. But nope; it’s in the finished product, and it’s just as funny. The scene is still intense, but it is hard to be taken seriously when an act that in reality should take three seconds lasts 30.

The other thing about the film that bothered me was the cliché idiot actions of the film’s characters, especially the 10-year-old daughter (played by Sterling Jerins). She constantly questions her dad’s instructions and on more than one occasion puts the family in danger with her ignorance. This actually added to the intensity of some scenes, if only because I was frustrated at her character.

Oh, and Pierce Brosnan is in the movie doing his Pierce Brosnan thing. He hams it up, hits on women and shoots some bad guys. You know, a day in the office for him.

Look, if you want a good movie then best try elsewhere than “No Escape” (we are in the dog days of August, after all). But if you just want a talented and surprisingly effective cast giving some B-movie thrills, then this is your ticket to a good time. Well, “good” in the relative sense of the word, at least.

Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Million Dollar Arm’ a Solid Hit

dollar“Million Dollar Arm”: its “Moneyball” meets “Slumdog Millionaire”, with a little “Miracle” thrown in. Based on a true story (because what movie nowadays isn’t), the movie follows sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) who has run out of clients. In a last-ditch effort, J.B. heads to India in an attempt to find the first Major League baseball player from the country. Lake Bell and Bill Paxton also star as Craig Gillespie directs.

The trailers for “Million Dollar Arm” not only set the tone for what kind of movie it is, but it also gives away the ending. But let’s be honest: you know five minutes into the movie how it is going to end. Heck, you know just by watching one of the TV spots what is going to happen. I guess you could say the film doesn’t throw you any curveballs (right? Get it? ‘Cause baseball?!). But with a movie like this, it isn’t so much about the destination; it’s about the journey.

I wish I could make a pun and say “Jon Hamm hams it up in the main role” but he is actually well cast and has solid chemistry with the rest of the cast. Even when he is being selfish or putting business before the boys, we still want what is best for his character.

The two Indian baseball players are both actors that American audiences have seen before; Suraj Sharma was the titular character in “Life of Pi” and Madhur Mittal was in “Slumdog Millionaire”. Both do a fine job here, even if they have to play the stereotypical “confused kids in a new world” for half the movie.

There isn’t much baseball in “Million Dollar Arm”, but there is plenty to keep your interest. Every now and again Alan Arkin pops up to do his wise-cracking thing, and Jon Hamm is always good for a chuckle. There isn’t anything special about the direction or writing, but in a movie like this, it is all about the character work.

The film could have benefited from being about 15 minutes shorter (it clocks in at two hours, I think an hour 45 would have been perfect), and there may be one too many “will they be ready in time for their tryout” moments. But still, they never overdo the schmaltz, or try to attempt too many jokes.

“Million Dollar Arm” is better than the average, clichéd underdog story, and it is certainly worth a viewing, whether you’re a baseball fan or not. Its predictable and feel-good and you can see the ending coming a mile away, but it is still a very watchable and entertaining film, and sometimes it is nice to sit through a movie that doesn’t have something blowing up every six seconds.

Critics Rating: 7/10