No Exit movie review & film summary (2022)

Damien Power directs this adaptation of a thriller novel of the same name by Taylor Adams. It has the kind of beautifully simple set-up that this fan of Hitchcock and Christie loves. A woman named Darby Thorne (Havana Rose Liu) gets a call that her mother is in the hospital. She flees the rehab facility she’s in—a detail that adds to her vulnerability and sense of overall panic—to try and drive to get to her mother, despite the protestations of her sister. As he’s traveling through the treacherous Utah mountains, she hits a blizzard, forcing her off the road and into a rest stop to wait it out. There, she meets four other stranded travelers—Ash (Danny Ramirez), Lars (David Rysdahl), Ed (Dennis Haysbert), and Sandi (Dale Dickey). It seems mundane until Darby goes outside to get a signal and finds a kidnapped girl (Mila Harris) in a van. Whose van? One of the four people in the rest stop is a monster. Darby has to figure out who’s dangerous enough to kidnap a child and how she can save the girl in the middle of a snowstorm.

“No Exit” kind of blows up its premise early, revealing the kidnapper before the end of the first act, but don’t panic. This is the kind of script one would know is based on a novel without seeing the credits because it has about a half-dozen chapter-ending twists. Let’s just say there are a lot of secrets in that rest stop, and while some may be put off by the coincidences and contrivances, “No Exit” works better as it piles up the insanity. It’s one of those films that deftly teeters on the edge of utter nonsense, and the balancing act becomes part of the escapist fun. It helps that Power admirably holds it together in terms of craft, getting brutal enough to remind people that he made “Killing Ground” while also having a stronger eye than a lot of streaming original directors, especially in the chaotic final act.

He’s also strong with his ensemble, never allowing Liu to devolve into histrionics but keeping her grounded in a believable performance. Haysbert and Dickey are both incredibly welcome character actors who add significant weight as a couple who may not know everything about one another. Ramirez and Rysdahl have very different energies, but Power and writers Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari lean into that and challenge preconceptions.

It’s tempting to say that “No Exit” works best if you turn off your brain, and I feel like there’s a stronger version with sharper dialogue and a more pronounced sense of claustrophobic tension in terms of space. However, this is the kind of thing that’s harder to pull off than it looks. Trust me. I’ve seen so many forgettable thrillers on streaming services. And I have a feeling that’s where I’ll be watching a lot more.

Premieres on Hulu today.

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