Saturday, October 5, 2013

Review: No One Lives

Copyright: Anchor Bay Films
An unnamed driver travels through a sparsely populated part of the country with his girlfriend. On a chance encounter, they interact with a group of people at a local bar. Soon after, Driver resumes their journey, not knowing that he became a target of opportunity for a criminal gang. The gang acts, not knowing that the driver isn’t an ordinary man, but something much more sinister. They attack on the open road, and take their bounty – the vehicle – to their clubhouse. There, locked in a secret compartment in the booth of the car, they find girl. They recognize her as a student that was kidnapped a year ago, after a mass murder took place at a party she attended.

For me, No One Lives was made in a manner that is very similar to another recent horror film - The Collection. The formula in both movies is based on a low level of background information (not to be confused with a minimalist plot) and defined by a relatively short runtime  (just 86 minute). The shortness of the films does a great favor to the audience, because there isn’t enough time to delve deeper into plot holes and flawed character motivations.

That is why Director Ryuhei Kitamura wisely lets the action and bloody mayhem dominate the narrative, and builds the characters to some degree later on, when the killing and maiming pauses for a few minutes. Simultaneously, he avoids exploring any deeper place that could transform into an emotional quagmire of unbelievability  we often see in bad horror films. At the end, we are left with people who are crudely sketched in terms of their aims and personalities, but are not painfully, laugh-out-loud illogical. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I believe the creators of this movie thought to themselves.

Luke Evans is close to perfection as the menacing Driver, and the actor gradually depicts the monster inside. In the beginning, his presence on the screen is reserved and even held back. After he experiences the carjacking, the mask of normality quickly melts off, and, as would doctor Hannibal Lector put it, the dragon appears.

Interestingly, Lee Tergesen plays in both movies, an actor that became known as the character Tobias Beecher from the TV show Oz. Here, as well as in The Collection, Tergesen is a big asset to the cast because of his ability to present a flexible, realistic persons, even if they are a gang leader. It’s sad to say that except Evans and him, not other actor in the cast stands out.

Yes, No One Lives has some elements that are off the rails (the way the Driver gets to the gang's clubhouse is ludicrous) and yes, some decisions the characters make are stupid, or at least not thought through. But Evans presentation of the mysterious, deadly Driver, combined with a compact plot with no mayor loose ends, makes up for an hour and a half without boredom, and that’s pretty much all I’m looking for in this movie genre.