NO WAY BACK appears to have been written on the spot by high school devotees of Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT). The result is a tossed salad of Mafia menace and FBI muscle topped by stale croutons of Yakuza violence. The film premiered on HBO and made its home-video
debut shortly thereafter.
The career of hotshot LA-based FBI agent Zack Grant (Russell Crowe) is jeopardized when he entrusts a skinhead sting operation to neophyte agent Seiko (Kelly Hu). Instead of entrapping the bigots, Seiko obliterates the entire neo-Nazi contingent, including Victor Serlano (Ian Ziering), before
throwing herself out a window. Unaware that Seiko's father was beaten to death by these organized thugs, Zack tries to take the heat off his botched operation by linking Seiko to a Yakuza connection, Yuji Kobayashi (Etsushi Toyokawa), in NYC. This lead's Victor's grieving papa, Frank Serlano
(Michael Lerner), to kidnap Zack's son, Eric (Andrew Ferchland), in order to persuade Zack to turn Yuji over to the vengeful Mob, instead of to the FBI.
In New York, Zack captures Yuji and boards a plane to LA with his prisoner. Aware that Zack will sacrifice him to save Eric's life, Yuji hijacks the plane, forces it to crash land in Arizona, and temporarily takes chipper stewardess Mary (Helen Slater) as a hostage. Zack recaptures--and
loses--Yuji several more times, until a skeptical highway patrolman arrests Zack, Yuji, and Mary. But when Serlano's assassins ambush and kill the cop, the three escape.
Caught in an ethical dilemma about turning in Yuji, Zack decides to trust him after Yuji reveals that he is Seiko's brother, not her employer. At a lakeside rendezvous, Mary distracts Serlano's men, as Zack swims toward a rowboat where Frank Serlano holds Eric. During the ensuing fight, a mortally
wounded Yuji wounds Frank Serlano, who falls overboard with Eric. But Zack stops Serlano from drowning the boy, and the reunited father and son turn to Mary as love interest and new mother, respectively.
Initially a barrel of fun, NO WAY BACK quickly turns monotonous. Astute viewers will spot bits and pieces of DIRTY HARRY (1971), PASSENGER 57 (1992), DIE HARD (1988), and dozens of other blockbusters, but the film has a tiresome tendency of borrowing climaxes without any of the support material
needed to showcase them effectively. The film also suffers from severe repetition: it keeps presenting variations on the same Yuji-captured/Yuji-escaped motif as it lurches from one set piece to another.
Even if one can overlook the Mafia stereotyping and the FBI vigilante shtick, this boorish action flick further compounds its errors with a save-my-child subplot outfitted with flashbacks to Zack's wife dying in childbirth(!) and a dippy love-hate relationship between airheaded flygirl Mary and
macho misanthrope Zack. The spectacle of this bimbo proving herself in a crisis is so retroactively sexist that the film could have been made in the early talkie period. NO WAY OUT is a noisy picture to boot--but there isn't enough noise in the world to disguise the fact that this is nothing more
than a pastiche of cliches from better-crafted Hollywood mega-hits with which it can't hope to compare. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: NO WAY BACK appears to have been written on the spot by high school devotees of Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOY SCOUT). The result is a tossed salad of Mafia menace and FBI muscle topped by stale croutons of Yakuza violence. The film premiered on… (more)