Written by M.N.Miller
No Exit, the new thriller streaming on Hulu/Disney + on February 25th, is a bit of a throwback nineties thriller. One of those bottleneck films that trade a big name, large cast with a minuscule budget. With a strong play for the uncompromising thriller stamp of approval status, Damien Powers squeezes the most out of his resources. His movie doesn’t quite reach that status but is surprisingly effective white-knuckle type. A cold and claustrophobic nail-biter that’s more effective than most.
Here, No Exit tells the story of Darby played by Havana Rose Liu (The Sky is Everywhere), a young woman who is currently detoxing at a quaint little rehab facility nestled in a snowy mountain pockets somewhere. She receives a call that her mom is in the hospital, on her death bed. She sneaks out and steals one of the therapists’ cars by bypassing the ignition with a handy screwdriver. (For a substance abuse center, believe me, this place has awful security, inside and out).
She, unfortunately, drives off into the middle of the area’s worst storm in years. A cop pulls her over and tells her to head over to the visitor’s center until the blizzard passes. There, she meets a couple of former war veterans played by Dennis Haysbert (Far From Heaven) and Dale Dickey (Hell or High Water), who have her best interests at heart. There is also a man her age played by Danny Ramirez (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) with a wicked smile she is smitten with. Also, a young man played by David Rysdahl (Nine Days), with impulse and behavioral control issues. You know the type you don’t want to get stuck within a small, enclosed space during a winter storm? It’s not so bad. Well, that’s until Darby finds a child crying and tied up in the back of a van in the parking lot named Jay (Mila Harris).
Sure, No Exit doesn’t exactly break new ground and goes where most thrillers take you. But the thriller/horror genre is all about tone and pacing. And Power has such a talent for these. Along with structure and pacing, he elevates his material. He also wrote the script and changed the pace by ending each act with a twist from satisfying to peculiar. Yet, the final twist is so different. It covers up a gigantic plot hole that a snowplow could fit in.
This is where No Exit lacks a knockout punch. The thriller is surprisingly shallow when it comes to characters’ backstories. This is fine most of the time because a movie like this is like a drip coffee maker. It gives off a little bit of each character to keep you interested, but when a handful of significant story shakeups happen, they are not as effective as they could have been.
No Exit is the type of film mainstream audiences will embrace, particularly younger ones addicted to the streaming experience, but will fall short with cinephiles and misguided critics alike. The jaded ones with a season of reviewing Oscar-nominated films and the Sundance film festival circuit. Me? If you love movies, you have to enjoy genre films. You have to buy the emotion it arouses, the filmmaker’s intent, and who it was intended for. Power’s film doesn’t have higher aspirations other than what it presents.
Along with a killer turn by Liu, No Exit wants to only nail the viewer to the wall with a fun time. Literally.