TIFF Midnight Madness 2012 – No One Lives Review
Starring: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Lee Tergesen, Derek Magyar, America Olivo, Lindsey Shaw and Beau Knapp.
Written by David Cohen
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
Returning to Midnight Madness for the first time since his 2000 film Versus, Director Ryuhei Kitamura brings us a messy, bloody and disturbing case of why it pay to not judge a book by its cover with No One Lives. The twisted tale of a team of break and enter specialists who pick on the wrong person is unflinching and forces you to root for someone where there is no presented worthy of it. But does No One Lives deliver on the promise of its premise?
We open on a young girl tearing through the woods in a desperate, and unsuccessful, attempt to escape an unseen assailant. We learn of a brutal massacre that has left fourteen students dead and the local police without a clue as to the whereabouts of young heiress Emma (Clemens), who may be the sole survivor. Many months later, a clan of backwoods bandits, headed by stern patriarch Hoag (Tergesen), botches a simple job and leaves a car of dead bodies behind due to loose cannon Flynn (Magyar). In an ill-conceived plot to get back in Hoag’s good graces Flynn runs a vacationing couple (Evans and Laura Ramsey) off the road. After taking the car back to the group’s hideout they discover the frightened Emma locked in the car trunk in the couple’s custody. The bandits think they’ve hit the jackpot, given the promise of a hefty reward for Emma’s rescue, but Evans’ “Driver” is far from the mild mannered family man they had him pegged for, and he will stop at nothing to get his “prize” back.
No One Lives is a film that probably shouldn’t work, but it does. The script does manage to provide some clever twists along the way, but is very simple in set up and execution. We have seen similar takes on this story before, the lone psychopath stalks a house of soon to be doomed victims who seem to have no escape available. The main difference here is the lack of characters to root for in the story. The wronged Driver is a despicable serial killer in his own right and his victims are hardly innocent. The one character seems to be the only semi-respectable person is Hoag’s daughter Amber, but even she’s not safe. Evans does an amiable job as the remorseless, emotionless killer, methodically extracting his revenge upon all in his way. The rest of the cast does decent enough work, but the fantastic Tergesen is criminally underutilized and Magyar is not strong enough to pull of the main adversary role he is given despite a game effort. WWE wrestler Brodus Clay, ne George Murdoch, is memorable in a tiny supporting role, showing plenty of on screen charisma. This is a WWE Studios production after all. Director Kitamura revels in the lack of a sympathetic character in the film; in fact he throws it our face and dares us to root for Driver despite the heinous activities of his past. Even Emma, our abducted ‘heroine’ trapped in the middle of all this is not nearly as innocent as we may think. Filled with inventive gore and over the top fill sequences, No One Lives is hardly a scary outing, but there is a firm bloody tongue in cheek throughout.
Hardly a game changer, No One Lives is still a fun ride that works a lot more than it doesn’t. I certainly hope that stigma that can accompany a WWE studios release and doom it to a direct to video release does not take away the opportunity to see this film show up in theaters across the country. No One Lives is a recommend.