★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Damien Power
Part thriller, part mystery, part horror, and all metaphor! No Exit is a pretty fun thrill ride that never gets too gory, grimy, or grody. Just a little bit of each, but not too much of any.
This 2022 Hulu joint put together by Tasmanian director Damien Power (Killing Ground) is a nice, neat, and concise bit of intrigue. No Exit does however contain a nagging feeling that there’s going to be a twist. Yes, I know there’s a twist coming. A major twist. BANG! There’s the twist(s).
No Exit follows Darby (Havana Rose Liu) a down-on-her-luck addict that’s stuck in an endless cycle of drugs and rehabilitation. When the news comes that her mother is dying Darby decides that it’s high time to ditch the rehab facility, steal a car, and get to her mom post haste.
Problem is that Darby has got to get from Sacramento to Salt Lake City through the Sierra Nevada range — in the middle of winter! As the storm goes from awfully awful to fully dreadful, Darby is forced to seek shelter in a visitor center. The visitor center, serving as a fairly similar setting to the Hateful 8, contains a cast of characters, including Ed (Dennis Haysbert) and his partner (Dale Dickey), and two wayward individuals Lars (David Rysdahl) and Ash (Danny Ramirez).
As the group settles to a metaphorical card game of “Bullshit” the film’s poker-face begins to clearly tell. Some of the five may know each other and some may have less than laudable intentions. While wandering through the snow-soak parking lot Darby hears a rumble coming from a child-molester-esque van. Turns out it contains a…child. Less than laudable intentions confirmed!
As Darby works to save the child the twists come out in force, as do the metaphors. No Exit from drug addiction. No Exit from the weather. No Exit from the visitor center. Snow as a metaphor for drugs. The child as a metaphor for redemption and rehabilitation. All are in play in the most obvious of manners. Most problematic is the fact that Darby is not a terrible engaging character, nor does her drug addiction seem terribly pressing. While the audience will root for her, it’ll likely translate into a rather passive and meager excitement.
The final act does get to a gnarly bit of horror, but again not too grody and not too gnarly. Just enough to make audiences squirm, and simultaneously put our protagonist, Darby, in a metaphorical and moral quandary. When No Exit works it really works, when the obvious becomes too obvious it serves as a distraction. Playing in its favor however is the fact that director Damien Power manages to neatly balance the power between the Darby and her villains, both imagined and real. By creating a mostly real-world scenario, No Exit is able to ease you in to its maze of twist and turns.
No Exit is a fun, but unlikely memorable, film. The acting, writing, and directing is all on point, but no new concepts are brought to the table, nor is there anything in the film that will have you talking about No Exit for years to come. Save for the great Dennis “All State: Are You in Good Hands?” Haysbert, there’s not a lot to remember.
No Exit is Rated R and currently streaming on Hulu.