Hollywood is still coming to grips with the scourge of addiction.
Recent films like “Ben is Back” and “Beautiful Boy” tackle the subject head on, while Hulu’s “No Exit” takes a more measured approach. A teen addict must stare down a threat unlike few others, all while grappling with sobriety and personal pain.
It’s a heady mix, no doubt, and for much of the film’s running time the blend doesn’t bubble over. One last, near fatal twist, though, nearly upends all that narrative goodwill.
Havana Rose Liu is Darby, a troubled teen going through the rehab motions. She’s stunned by news of her mother’s illness, convincing her to flee rehab to be by her side.
A blizzard short circuits her escape, and she’s forced to hang tight at a visitors’ center to wait out the storm. She soon uncovers a kidnapping plot involving one of her fellow drivers, but is she strong enough to rescue the child in question, or will the kidnapper silence her for good?
“No Exit” begins like an Agatha Christie whodonnit but shows its cards earlier than expected. We still get to know the key players, including an avuncular former Marine (Dennis Haysbert, steady as always), a kindly nurse (Dale Dickey) and a squirrelly type who seems too obvious to be the villain (David Rysdahl).
Add the handsome Ash to the mix (Danny Ramirez), and it’s clear Darby has both suspects aplenty and folks who might rally to her cause.
Or will they?
“No Exit” risks plenty by sharing much of the motivations in play mid-film, but the mechanics of the story keep our attention. Liu does the rest, grounding both Darby and her attempts to save the kidnapped child. She’s no hero, but she’s accustomed to dealing with adversity.
it’s a meaty subtext that gives her character a depth many heroes lack.
The setting is primarily in and around the visitor’s center, but that doesn’t detract from the thrills. It only enhances them, as director Damien Power (“Killing Ground”) expertly utilizes the limited arrangements. It’s not as cramped as the recent “Shut In,” but it takes imagination to wring a feature from such cramped quarters, cinematically speaking.
Still, plot conveniences abound. And a late twist, which supercharges the danger, also crushes the sense of reality the film flirted with until then. It’s a screenwriter trick, the kind that barely holds up upon closer examination.
Much of “No Exit” feels old fashioned in the purest sense. There’s no woke lectures or ham-fisted stabs at connecting the story to modern tropes. It’s not an empty calorie affair, though. Darby’s addictions are never out of mind, and the actress dutifully ensures that’s the case.
“No Exit” offers enough variation to existing themes to make it worth the detour.
HiT or Miss: “No Exit” asks a troubled heroine to save the day, and it’s impossible not to cheer her on.