Vague circumstances of this in-your-face thriller complicate whatever socio-political message it may have had
Run Time: 103 minutes
Pros: original screenplay, decent adult cast
Cons: vague geography/culture, flat characters
Overall Grade: C+
The first five minutes of this film will grab your attention; there is no doubt about it. Written by brother duo John Erick and Drew Dowdle and directed by the former (“The Poughkeepsie Tapes,” “Quarantine,” “As Above, So Below”), the film follows Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) and his family as they are chased by violent anti-American revolutionaries around an unidentified Third World Asian city. The camera shakes at moments when the action rises, all while the music and sound effects also intensify. This film is brazenly loud in many scenes, but it helps create an entertaining action-thriller. With that stated, there are as many problems in the film as there are revolutionaries chasing the Dwyer family.
Southeast Asians are not portrayed very nicely and it is clearly noted with nations like Cambodia banning the film from being shown. The attempt at keeping the specifics about “which Asians” are creating the violence is muddled by the thinly-crafted characters on both sides of the cat-and-mouse game that takes up the majority of the film. What the Dowdle brothers have essentially created is a film in which xenophobic Asians target Americans in general, narrow the focus to Dwyer later, and end up killing more of their fellow Asians by the movie’s end. Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), the only likeable character in the film, adds much-needed hope, comic relief and pertinent plot context throughout the film, but there are also tense moments that are laughable as well. The audience may feel confused along with the characters, unless they suspend their belief in a realistic narrative.
If your goal is to watch an action-packed thriller as entertainment, then by all means, this is a great film. However, do not expect the film to speak to you in a meaningful way as the plot and characters will get in the way. Luke Wilson, Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan are enjoyable in their roles. However, the Dowdles may want to consider going back to the horror genre.
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By Rusty Hatchell