Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: During a blizzard and stranded at an isolated highway rest stop in the mountains, a college student discovers a kidnapped child hidden in a car.
Review: There are slow-burn thrillers and then there are just thrillers that are slow to start. No Exit sits firmly in the slow to start section, but once it gets going this straight forward story with its simple premise manages to up the ante in surprising ways.
There was a time in the early to mid-2000s when a movie such as this one would’ve made a decent turn at the box office. Probably starring Jennifer Jason Leigh or Ashley Judd a la Kiss the Girls or Double Jeopardy. Nowadays these types of movies are relegated to streaming platforms.
This time around it’s Hulu telling the story of a young woman Darby (Havana Rose Liu) who sneaks away from her mandatory stay at a drug rehab facility to visit her dying mother. On her way she get stuck in a snow storm and is forced to take up residence at an isolated rest stop with a group of strangers. When Darby discovers a young girl (Mila Harris) tied up in the back of a van, the apparent victim of child abduction, she takes it upon herself to figure out which one of these people is the culprit. But who do you trust when everyone around you is a suspect?
As I mentioned before, No Exit takes some time to truly build up momentum but luckily Liu (The Chair, The Sky is Everywhere) as Darby has a natural and grounded personality that makes it easy to stick with her until the end. It would’ve been so easy for them to make her loud or abrasive and mean but thankfully director Damien Power ensured these characters never veered too far into ridiculousness.
Joining Liu are a couple of familiar faces. We have everyman actor Dennis Haysbert (24, Lucifer, The Dark Tower) as Ed, the truly underrated Dale Dickey (Hell or High Water, Winter’s Bone, Justified) as Sandi. Rounding off the cast are David Rysdahl as Lars and Danny Ramirez as Ash. A small cast and a moderate budget, yet No Exit manages to deliver even as it gives away its premise in the first act.
Personally I’m a fan of this type of storytelling because it keeps you invested. It’s easy enough to figure out whodunit by the third act, so how do you keep your audience on their toes? Why reveal the obvious answer and then shake things up with the ones they can’t see coming. Add to that No Exit taking things up a notch by having the movie become much more violent than most would expect and you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat in no time. The best comparison I can think of in terms of tonal shifts and pacing is 2003’s Identity, where similarly the big reveal comes much earlier than expected leaving you to wonder what else was coming your way.
No Exit isn’t perfect and it isn’t one of those thrillers I see myself rewatching from time to time. But it is an entertaining movie and a deftly directed one that utilises its small budget in very smart ways. With solid performances from everyone involved I think fans of the genre won’t walk away disappointed if they give this a go.
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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