Director Damien Power
Screenplay Andrew Barrer based on the book by Taylor Adams
Starring Havana Rose Liu, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl, Dale Dickey, Mila Harris, Dennis Haysbert
No Exit features a relative newcomer in Darby (Liu, also seen briefly in The Sky is Everywhere) as a recovering addict who learns that her mother is in the hospital having suffered a stroke. Since she is in inpatient care without the choice to leave, she escapes at night into a snow storm. Trying to go over a pass, she is rerouted to a local visitors center. There she comes across four strangers, plus someone else.
The someone else is a little girl (Harris) that she finds tied up in a van in the parking lot while trying to get a cell signal. She can’t communicate with the outside world, of course, and now she has to figure out who among the four strangers owns that van.
The mystery of No Exit does not remain a secret for long. Before we have a chance to wonder we are thrust into answers that we weren’t able to be curious about. The story wants to give us the impression that there are more tricks up the sleeve, but these don’t hold much surprise either.
Ebert’s Law of economy of characters is in full swing in this story. It has the effect of muting a compelling turn by Liu, who has enough presence to bring the viewer through this relatively simple story. None of the strangers are nearly as interesting as Darby. They seem more like place holders than actual people with motivations. Not that the cast is unskilled, quite the opposite. It’s just that there is no sort of challenge to this story, which seems like a more violent After School Special than anything.
If one limits the expectations, this film can be enjoyed, right up to the very stupid police officer in the climax. Hard to believe the film will be remembered for anything more than Liu’s obvious talent.
(** out of *****)