American Family Seeks Safe Haven In High-Octane Political Thriller
After the company he works for files for bankruptcy, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) accepts a position overseas with Cardiff, a transnational, water bottling corporation. But the native Texan really regrets that his new job will involve uprooting his wife, Annie (Lake Bell), and their young daughters, Beeze (Claire Geare) and Lucy (Sterling Jerins). During the long flight to Southeast Asia, we find the girls fretting about whether they’ll like their new home and if their dad’s new company will go belly up, too.
Luckily, little Beeze also strikes up a conversation with a fellow passenger (Pierce Brosnan) about his assortment of curious face and body scars. For, the mysterious stranger, Mr. Hammond, happens to be quite familiar with the family’s destination point.
Upon landing at the airport, he helps them avoid the shady, solicitous street hustlers lurking around the terminal. Instead, he directs them to an honest cabbie (Sahajak Boonthanakit) who’ll escort them to what they reasonably expect to be comfy accommodations.
But au contraire! Culture shock sets in when the Dwyers check into the Imperial Lotus hotel where nothing in the suite seems to work: their cell phone, the landline, the TV, not even the lights. Still, those inconveniences pale in comparison to the threat to their very existence posed by the coup d’etat which suddenly claims the life of the country’s prime minister (Vuthichard Photphurin).
In the wake of the assassination, bloodthirsty gangs of rebels start roaming around the country, specifically looking for Westerners to lynch on the spot. And it isn’t long before the horde of marauders are going door-to-door right inside the hotel.
What to do? What to do? As a stranger in a strange land with no links to the outside world, Jack realizes that he has to rely on his wits to save his family.
He settles on sanctuary at the American embassy as the goal, which might be easier said than done sans GPS on streets crawling with Yankee-hating insurgents. Nonetheless, with the walls closing in, he leads Annie and the girls to the roof of the building to begin the perilous journey.
Directed by John Erik Dowdle (As Above, So Below), No Escape is a tightly-wound, high-octane action thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the duration, courtesy of the Dwyers’ close brushes with death at every turn. Credit a quintet of convincing performances here, including Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Claire Geare and Sterling Jerins as the terrified family, along with Pierce Brosnan as an “economic hit man” filled with overwhelming regret.
A harrowing heart-pounder that delivers even more excitement than is suggested by its very compelling trailer!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 101 minutes
Straight Outta Compton
Rated R for violence, drug use, pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity
Gritty Raptrospective Chronicles Rise And Demise Of Legendary Gangsta’ Group
Back in the ’80s, the CIA began orchestrating the introduction of crack-cocaine to African-American communities all across America, starting with the South Central L.A. By the middle of the decade, the epidemic had turned Compton into a godforsaken wasteland rife with drug addiction and crime.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that when a young Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) teamed up with MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) to write songs, they’d reflect the reality of what they’d witnessed growing up in the ‘hood. In 1988, together with Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.), they released Straight Outta Compton, the debut album of N.W.A., aka Niggaz With Attitudes.
The controversial group pioneered a seminal subgenre of rap revolving around black-on-black violence, misogyny and police brutality. While detractors criticized their glorification of ghetto dysfunction, proponents countered that N.W.A. was merely telling it like it is.
Despite that first CD’s going double platinum, Cube soon departed to embark on a solo career, ostensibly after being ripped off by their manager, Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti). In fact, he subsequently threatened to “put a bullet to his temple” in a tune where he also suggested his former bandmates “get rid of that devil” because they couldn’t be gangstas “with a white Jew tellin’ you what to do.” Meanwhile, his abandoned homeys promised Cube via lyrics that they would “f*ck you with a broomstick.”
Ironically, they would all eventually wise up and come around to agree with Cube, most notably, Dre, who finally left Ruthless Records in 1991 to sign with his bodyguard Suge Knight’s (R. Marcus Taylor) new label, Death Row Records. Eazy-E would remain loyal to Heller the longest, leaving not long before he died of AIDS at just 31 years of age.
All of the above is recounted in vivid fashion in Straight Outta Compton, a gritty raptrospective that unfolds like an extended episode of VH1’s Behind The Music. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen), the film does seem to be celebrating the sort of depraved behavior that might lead to an early death.
For, between off-stage and concert performances of N.W.A. hits, we’re basically being treated to such sights of these hedonistic pop stars as “drowning in pussy” in a hotel room littered with groupies, settling their differences with adversaries at gunpoint, and being arrested after ignoring orders by the authorities to stop performing the incendiary “F*ck The Police.“
The cinematic equivalent of a nostalgic fanzine designed with die-hard devotees of gangsta’ rap in mind.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 147 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening August 28, 2015
War Room (PG for mature themes) Faith-based morality play about a Christian couple (Priscilla Shirer and T.C. Stallings) whose marriage is tested by the husband’s emotional abuse, infidelity and crooked financial dealings. Support cast includes Karen Abercrombie, Beth Moore and Jadin Harris.
We Are Your Friends (R for nudity, sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Romance drama revolving around the tensions which surface when an aspiring DJ (Zac Efron) secretly starts courting his mentor’s (Wes Bentley) young girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski). With Jonny Weston, Jon Bernthal, Shiloh Fernandez and Alicia Coppola.
I Touched All Your Stuff (Unrated) Cross-cultural documentary chronicling how Christopher Kirk, a nerdy American, ended up falling head-over-heels for a mysterious woman after moving to Colombia to study hippos. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)
My Voice, My Life (Unrated) Oscar-winner Ruby Yang (for The Blood Of Yingzhou District) directed this overcoming-the-odds documentary following a group of underprivileged, middle school students for six months as they prepare to stage a musical production in Hong Kong. (In Cantonese with subtitles)
Queen Of Earth (Unrated) Psychological thriller about childhood BFFs (Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston) who discover that they’ve drifted apart while spending time together during a reunion spent at a lake house in the country. Featuring Kate Lyn Sheil, Patrick Fugit and Kentucker Audley.
The Second Mother (R for profanity and brief drug use) Dysfunctional family drama, set in Sao Paulo, about a nanny (Regina Case) whose life is turned upside-down when her estranged daughter (Camila Mardila) shows up unexpectedly and starts challenging the upper-class/lower-class dynamic. With Helena Albergaria, Michael Joelsas and Luis Miranda. (In Portuguese with subtitles)
Unsullied (R for violence, rape, profanity and brief drug use) Fact-based tale of survival, directed by ex-NFL star Simeon Rice, recounting the ordeal of a young woman (Murray Gray) kidnapped by a couple of sociopaths (Rusty Joiner and James Gaudioso) after her car broke down on a deserted road in backwoods Florida. Supporting cast includes Erin Boyes, Cindy Karr and Nicole Paris Williams.
Z for Zachariah (Z for sexuality, partial nudity and brief profanity) Post-apocalyptic, sci-fi thriller revolving around the love triangle which develops among the only three survivors (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Pine and Margot Robbie) of an extinction level event.
Zipper (R for nudity, profanity, graphic sexuality and brief drug use) Shades of Eliot Spitzer in this drama about a self-destructive prosecutor (Patrick Wilson) who ruins his marriage and promising political career by cheating with a string of high-priced call girls. With Lena Headey, Ray Winstone, Richard Dreyfuss and John Cho.