No Exit

This chilling thriller threatens to get overshadowed by weak dialogue.

I caught a glimpse of Hulu’s new thriller “No Exit” last week before the review embargo lifted, and I needed time to make sure I wasn’t blinded by the movie’s overall direction. I guess I wasn’t, because it has an interesting concept, but has to be overshadowed by some inept dialogue and a flashback scene that’s so typical of this generation.

Being that this is based on Taylor Adams’ book that featured an unexpected twist, and I’m sure Hulu streamers are salvaging to see it, I won’t spoil it for you. But I can tell you it has to do with a hardworking housekeeper being bullied by a snobby rich kid. I’m also a theater usher, and my job entitles me to clean up theaters, and I have housekeepers popping by every now and then, so I want to show as much respect for them as possible. But I’m getting off-topic.

We meet the young junkie Darby (Havana Rose Liu from “Mayday”), who is in a Sacramento rehab, and receives a phone call about her mother suffering from aneurysm, and needs to be operated on stat. She breaks out to hot wire a car to drive to the hospital in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately for her, a blizzard breaks out and the roads are closed, so she has to crash at the visitor’s center.

The other strangers in the center consist of the former Marine Ed (Dennis Haysbert), his friend-a former nurse-named Sandi (Dale Dickey), the seemingly nice guy Ash (Danny Ramirez), and the sleazy and crazy Lars (David Rysdahl). There’s no WiFi, and Darby goes outside to at least find a bar, but all she finds is a little girl (Mila Harris) bound and gagged in a van. A half hour into this, we immediately find out that Lars and Ash are the child abductors. And as expected, it becomes a night of survival.

Lars and Ash are also the ones to present their cheesy dialogue, regarding them getting in trouble or finding their kidnapped victim and the junkie who discovered her. It all seems silly the way they present those words. And not only do they have to kill off some good people in the visitor’s center, but they also have to nail the junkie’s arm to the wall.

Aside from the concept, “No Exit” is only likable when Liu, Dickey, and Haysbert deliver fine performances in their own lights. Liu adds the right kind of tone as a junkie wanting to reunite with her mother, almost like Sandra Bullock wanting to reunite with her little sister in the otherwise mediocre “The Unforgivable.” And both those films are missed opportunities. Dickey, an actress of independent features (“Hell or High Water,” “Leave No Trace,” etc.), has some attitude, while Haysbert is wisely chosen as the ex-Marine, and both these actors are met well with age.

But why did the movie have to lose its intelligence on some of its cliches? Why couldn’t the villains be smarter? Why couldn’t the main heroine be smarter? It just seem trivial. And when we do get to the twist, we’re actually thankful somebody did something about the particular individual mocking the housekeeper.

“No Exit” was directed by Damien Power, who also made “Killing Ground,” and produced by Scott Frank, who also created “The Queen’s Gambit.” Both “No Exit” and “The Queen’s Gambit” feature drug addictions, but the latter is smarter and more provocative than the former. The look and feel of the blizzard and the visitor’s center have a soothing and chilling feel to the story. This has the potential to be chilling; it just wastes that opportunity.

Rating: 2 out of 4.

Streaming on Hulu

Categories: Drama, Horror, Mystery

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