Monday, August 31, 2015

There’s No Escape From "No Escape", a Stupid Movie about Stupid White People

“The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist.”

Hot on the heels of this weekend’s protests against corruption in Malaysia and the Bangkok bombing comes the opening in cinemas across the US of what is apparently a new kind of exploitation film – the Global Slumming Thriller-Comedy.

No Escape is a movie directed by John Erick (sic?) Dowdle and written by his brother, Drew Dowdle. Unless their quota for using the credits “Alan and Steve Smithee” had already been expended, we must assume that these are indeed the real names of these unfortunate brothers, who are known mainly for B-grade horror pictures. The film depicts the ordeal of a family of Middle American Schlubs who come for expat work to an unnamed Southeast Asian country which looks an awful lot like Thailand, but whose language as spoken is backcountry Lao and is written in upside-down Khmer.

The hapless family are portrayed by the infuriating Owen Wilson, a boiled horse and two annoying young girls who should’ve been sold to ISIS rather than be given acting jobs. What Wilson brings to the table here is mainly his nose, whose contours resemble the kind of reasoning necessary to find anything in this film plausible. Pierce Lazenby makes a series of very special appearances as a presumed Transatlantic operative named Hammond. From this we are able to divine that the Dowdle brothers watch a lot of Top Gear.

The story appears to unfold over less than a handful of days. We’re never sure of the timeline, although we are told early on that Wilson’s character and his family arrive in country seventeen hours before the assassination of the nation’s straight-from-stock-footage quixotic leader and the resulting revolution or coup. In fact, the working title for this film was “The Coup,” but we still can’t tell which is actually going on.

From the moment the Wilson character and his callow brood arrive at their hotel, the audience gets a none-too-subtle clue that something is amiss in the form of a total communications blackout, but the family assumes this is normal because they aren’t in America anymore. Mildly frustrated, Pops decides to take a stroll in search of a copy of USA Today (we kid you not; perhaps this was the most desperate of product placements), only to walk into a bloody confrontation between an angry rabble of red-dickie-wearing peasants and riot police who, despite their superior firepower, subsequently vanish from the action. At this point, the Red Dickie Brigade start screaming bad Laotian and summarily killing white people.

By the time Pops make it back to the hotel, the natives are revolting inside, going from room to room and hacking more white people to death with specially imported Hutu machetes, and throwing Linda Hunt out of the window. Despite all this, the family rallies up and gets to the roof, with the help of helpful Hammond. There, they and the remaining white people learn that the Red Dickies are very angry that the white people took over their water company (Pops just so happens to work for the multinational involved) so they want to kill them all. By this time the rabble has magically taken over the military’s tanks and helicopters, using them to finish their job on the hapless rooftop refugees. This is where the film literally goes Full Retard. We can’t have our heroes killed off, so they develop super powers, literally leaping tall buildings in a handful of bounds, using their gifts of disguise and crafty moped acrobatics.

When they find the US Embassy massacred, even they reach their wit’s end and helpful Hammond-Bond comes to their rescue. In between acts of highly improbable levels of marksmanship, the Master Spook confesses to Pops that the whole debacle is really his fault – he’s really an Economic Hit Man who set up the whole thing the Red Dickies are so steamed about in the first place. He tells the family their best chance is to get to Vietnam by sailing down the river. He and his Kenny Rogers-loving sidekick Kato then die, because despite their experience and training, they deserve to: after all, they’re Economic Hit Men. Our American Family then use a gold watch to buy a small rowboat to get to the Vietnamese border, which they do so in a matter of minutes(The actual distance from Phnom Penh to the VN border via the Mekong is about 100 KM, but who’s counting at this point?). The Vietnamese, pith helmets and all, grant asylum to our family and we cut to a scene of them recovering in hospital, inexplicably contemplating the miracle of birth. The End.

No Escape is a horrifying example of Hollywood obliviosity and xenophobia, true enough. Given recent events in the real Southeast Asia, it couldn’t come at a worse time for people who support a better understanding of events in the region. But for the more cynical among us, it might serve down the line as the first Foreign Policy Midnight Movie. After all, it’s funnier than The Room.

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