More often than not, when somebody is thrown into a perilous, life or death situation, they have a remarkable aptitude for combat which sees them to safety. Be it Taken or John Wick – our protagonist just so happens to be ex-CIA or a hitman, and so on. But in John Erick Dowdle’s No Escape – which he co-penned with his brother Drew – our hero, Jack (Owen Wilson) and his beleaguered family, are perfectly, and endearingly ordinary, never exposed to such danger before and possessing no great skill set. He’s just a regular bloke, like you or I.

This sets the precedence for what is a compelling and truly entertaining feature – that follows the Dwyer family when they move to Thailand to fulfil Jack’s new vocation. His wife, Annie (Lake Bell) is unsure of the situation, while their two young daughters, Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare) are overwhelmed by their parents dramatic change of direction. But that swiftly becomes something of a side-note, when local rebels murder the president – and set their eyes on the hotel the family are staying in, intending to kill everybody in sight, as a protest against international interference that is tarnishing their local practises. Suddenly the family are on the run, targeted especially by the savage army given Jack is working for the company they are fervently campaigning against. With fellow survivor Hammond (Pierce Brosnan) also fighting for his life, they set off into the streets of Bangkok, searching desperately for safety.

Given the distinct affability to both Wilson and Bell – not to mention their intrinsic, comedic tendencies – it allows for the viewer to form a bond with the family in the opening stages, which never waivers from thereon, and allows for us to remain invested throughout. But both actors excel dramatically too, completely up to the task at hand. What also helps to engage with their predicament and root for their safety, is the way fear and tension is evoked, playing up on the fact they’re tourists, and that familiar notion of disorientation, feeling lost and lonely in a strange place – with the language barrier suffocating at times, not to mention having a new culture to adapt to. Plus there’s the theme of parenthood, protecting two young girls at all times, which inevitably slows them down along the way.

However the film is lacking one true antagonist – a formidable opponent, somebody to fear. There’s a collective of barbaric killers rampaging around the streets, but they all merge in to one, as not one single villain is given any identity, or palpable personality. But then again, the line between good and evil in this film is blurred somewhat, and though initially this appears to be your generic, saintly white middle-class Americans versus angry, interchangeable foreigners ordeal, we deviate away from such a cliché, as these people are protecting their culture, and in some ways, on a broader scale, the villains here, are the Americans. Of course you’re still naturally rooting for the survival of the lead family, because they’re merely innocent bystanders on this occasion, but it’s interesting how you can see this from both sides, in spite of the reprehensible acts the rebels are committing.

Nonetheless, the line between what is considered entertaining, and what is downright absurd is also a rather thin one. While there are some moments that make for compelling cinema, there are others – such as the comical roof sequence – that are just so illusory that they take you out of the story completely. To say this film has several “they would never in a million years survive this” moments, is something of an understatement.