In 2001, already developing a comic acting career, Owen Wilson tried to stretch. In “Behind Enemy Lines,” he played a naval aviator shot down and pursued by bloodthirsty Serbian paramilitary units. Not quite an action hero, he conveyed the intense fear and desperation of a fugitive in the cross hairs.
Now Mr. Wilson returns for run-for-your-life seconds. In “No Escape,” he is again in hostile territory, as Jack Dwyer, an engineer who has joined a multinational corporation after his own company failed, and is moving his family to an unnamed Southeast Asian country. As brave a front as he and his wife, Annie (Lake Bell), put up for their two young daughters, they know the situation is bad. Of course, it’s about to get much worse.
As “No Escape” begins, the Dwyers are landing, befriended on their flight by Hammond (Pierce Brosnan), a seatmate with the rough beard, fresh scars and randy cheer of an old post-colonial hand. When Jack takes a walk out of their luxury hotel the next morning, he’s caught in a clash between the police and mobs, then scrambles back minutes before anti-Western revolutionaries go room to room, slaughtering foreigners. From that point, the film is a series of fight-or-flight set pieces of the panicked family trying to stay alive.
Directed breathlessly by John Erick Dowdle (“As Above/So Below”), the movie is filled with jittery shots from hand-held cameras, and hurtles along at a pace that is especially helpful in racing past the holes in the paper-thin plot. Hammond shows up fortuitously to provide small-arms fire, temporary haven and a plan to get out.
For Mr. Wilson, this is probably just a detour from his usual comedic roles. Mr. Brosnan, though, continues to shed the smooth and silky customs of his James Bond days. Among the most terrifying scenes is an early shot of Mr. Brosnan in the hotel bar, shouting lyrics to a Huey Lewis tune. Oh, the horror.
“No Escape” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for much blood, gore and menace. And that karaoke number.