"No Escape," Owen Wilson plays an idealistic American, Jack Dwyer, who moves his family to Thailand for a new job. He'll be working for Cardiff, a company that produces clean drinking water for developing countries. Jack wants to do well by doing good.
Alas, mere hours after the Dwyers touch down, a violent coup breaks out. White Westerners are shot in the street, but there's worse news for Jack: The rebels are specifically hunting Cardiff employees. If only Jack had read a recent newspaper or Googled his employer! Now he and his family are marked for death.
"No Escape" may be Wilson's botched attempt to play the kind of action-oriented dad that Liam Neeson did so well in 2008's "Taken." Wilson's Jack has a beautiful wife, Annie (an oddly grouchy Lake Bell), but it's his two little girls (Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare) who make him a potentially heroic figure. Wilson, a quirky actor whose Zen-cowboy persona has graced the films of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen, might make a refreshingly offbeat action star in the right movie. This is not it.
"No Escape" does absolutely everything wrong. The filmmakers - sibling writers Drew and John Erick Dowdle, who also directed - have come up with a bare glimmer of an idea and seem unsure how to put it on screen. The coup is so poorly explained that it's almost an insult to coups. Pierce Brosnan plays a shadowy agent named Hammond (maddeningly identified as "British CIA") whose main job is to compensate for Wilson's meager action scenes. Because "No Escape" has no driving theme, its uncertain tone veers wildly between nasty violence, sobbing melodrama and post-shootout comedy.
Finally, "No Escape" seems flat-out ignorant and racist. As far as this movie is concerned, a Southeast Asian coup is as sudden and meaningless as a Southeast Asian tsunami. No wonder Thailand, where filming took place, reportedly asked not to be mentioned or clearly identified in the movie. At the very least, though, "No Escape" might help remind folks to visit the U.S. State Department website before traveling.