Debuting on Disney + in Canada this week, the Hulu original film No Exit boasts a script co-written by Queen’s Gambit creator Scott Frank. The relative newcomer Damien Power directs the film. It uses some familiar trappings to establish a group of strangers forced together in a remote location, cut off from the outside world by a storm. But of course, things aren’t what they seem, they rarely are.
Darby (Havana Rose Liu) hears the news that her mother has had an accident and is in critical condition. So she breaks out of a rehab facility and heads to see her, despite her family’s wishes. Along the way she reads headlong into a nasty storm (hitting a little close to home still for us Ontarians after our own 2-foot snow dump a few weeks ago). And she is forced to ride out the storm at a rest area.
Upon arriving, Darby runs into an older couple, Ed and Sandi (played by veteran character actors Dennis Haysbert and Dale Dickey respectfully). She also runs into the jittery and irritable Lars (David Rysdahl) and the charming Ash (Danny Ramirez). Darby quickly realizes that she conveniently has no cell phone service. So she ventures back into the parking lot in a futile attempt to find some. Then, she discovers that one of the vehicles has an extra passenger tied up in the back.
To say that this film throws every cliché they can think of at the screen to see what sticks would be an understatement. Darby’s made into a recovering addict for the thinnest of plot reasons. And the film doesn’t really touch upon or follow up on her recovery within any meaningful manner. Well, it does, on the very last, highly unneeded final shot. It’s just exposition for exposition’s sake. The film drags all the familiar tropes here too, like the detached and stranded strangers that aren’t as unconnected as you think. There’s also the strange disease that requires specific help or the girl dies, and many more. We’ve seen this type of story many times before.
What can elevate a story like this is a smart script and excellent acting, and unfortunately in the case of No Exit, both of these are wildly uneven. The script struggles to maintain tone and features some truly ridiculous decision-making by multiple characters. The cast is buoyed by its excellent couple of Dennis Haysbert and Dale Dicky. Both could read the phone book and be riveting but are let down by the rest. Saddled with needless exposition, Liu’s Darby just becomes muddled and messy. Ramirez does okay with Ash – as hollow and devoid of character development as the character is. That’s until the over-the-top antics in the end which just become preposterous. And Rysdahl’s Lars comes off as more of a pale interpretation of better versions of unhinged characters. He himself doesn’t come off as a fully-fledged character.
The retread script really fails to deliver any true twists or surprises. The film also captures some questionable acting choices and an unoriginal camera/directing, leading to a fairly underwhelming final result. Made at least watchable due to the presence of Haysbert and Dickey, along with the potential of Liu, No Exit doesn’t fall flat on its face…. But it does come pretty damn close.
- Rated: R
- Genre: Horror. Thriller
- Release Date: 2/25/2022
- Directed by: Damien Power
- Starring: Benedict Wall, Dale Dickey, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl, Dennis Haysbert, Havana Rose Liu, Mila Harris
- Produced by: Annie Weston, Scott Frank
- Written by: Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari, Scott Frank, Taylor Adams
- Studio: 20th Century Studios, Disney