'No Exit' review: A rest stop, a kidnapping and plenty of suspects

Thriller runs out of gas before the plot twists start piling up.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

An exercise in suspense that lacks the tension needed to properly see itself through, "No Exit" is a thriller where the thrills all manage to slip out the door early, like they have somewhere better to be. 

Havana Rose Liu is Darby, a college student with plenty on her plate before the action of the story kicks in. She's in a rehab facility trying to kick her drug addiction — it's her seventh attempt at sobriety — when she gets a phone call telling her that her mother is sick. Darby might not get another chance to see her alive, so she breaks out of the treatment center in an attempt to drive all night and make it from Sacramento to Salt Lake City to be by her mother's side.  

Havana Rose Liu in "No Exit."

Except there's a severe snowstorm and the roads are closed, and Darby's only option is to wait out the weather at a rest stop, where several others are already holed up. 

There's a couple, Ed (Dennis Haysbert) and Sandi (Dale Dickey), as well as a couple of loners, Lars (David Rysdahl) and Ash (Danny Ramirez). Everyone keeps to themselves at first, but eventually they engage in small talk. When Darby steps out to see if she can get a reception on her cellphone, she hears a rumbling in a van in the parking lot. She spots a child tied up inside, and then has to determine who among the group is a kidnapper, and who she can trust to help her save the day. 

"No Exit" is based on a 2017 novel and it has the bones of a small, contained thriller. But cracks begin to show early — a friendly game of cards goes off the rails — and director Damien Power has difficulty maintaining the plausibility of the situation, and with that, the legs of the story get wobbly. And that's before the plot twists start to pile up as high as the snow drifts in the parking lot outside.   

A good potboiler needs to be airtight, or it needs to be fun enough to rise above its shortcomings. Unfortunately "No Exit" is neither. The door on it swings open early and never gets shut, and all the air in the room goes out with it. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'No Exit'

GRADE: C-

Rated R: for strong violence, language and some drug content

Running time: 95 minutes

On Hulu