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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » No Way Back (Blu-ray)
No Way Back (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // R // June 16, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $28.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 29, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Before Russell Crowe was the international box office draw he has become, he starred in this low budget, low impact cop thriller, No Way Back, written and directed in 1995 by Frank A. Cappello (who would later go on to write Constantine and who had previously wowed audiences by writing Suburban Commando!). As unoriginal as its title implies, this is far from an undiscovered classic but as far as serving as mindless entertainment goes, you could find worse ways to kill an hour and a half.

The perpetually surly Crowe plays an F.B.I. agent named Zack Grant who is upset over the fact that his undercover partner was killed in an explosives operation gone horribly wrong. Figuring he was set up, Grant decides to investigate and it isn't long before he's off to Japan and extraditing a Yakuza big-wig named Yuji (Etsushi Toyokawa). While Zack is doing his thing, a mobster named Frank Serlano (Michael Lerner), grieves for his dead son, a crazy skinhead guy who was killed in the same explosion that took the life of Frank's partner and he holds Zack responsible for this. Frank decides to kidnap Zack's son and hold him hostage, wanting to exchange his life for Yuji's freedom but it isn't going to be that easy thanks to the involvement of the mysterious Mr. Contingency (Kristopher Logan) and a random flight attendant named Mary (Helen Slater) who also winds up being taken hostage.

There's not one single part of No Way Back that feels in the least bit original, from the characters to the action set pieces to the situations to the dialogue, we've seen all of this before and we've seen it done with more style and in more interesting and entertaining ways. That said, if you don't mind turning off your brain and just accepting this cheap, low budget cop movie for what it is, it's fine as a mediocre time waster. Crowe is fine in the lead and while he doesn't quite have the screen presence here that he does in some of his better pictures (don't expect him to bring the charisma he showed in Gladiator, for instance) he's perfectly decent in the lead role and his gives his character enough cliché emotion that we can buy him in the part, though his accent slips in now and again.

The rest of the performances are typical for this type of film. The actors do fine with the material, but the material is thin so they can only really bring so much to the movie when they don't have the greatest material to work with. Helen Slater's character is a bit irritating, her constant smart ass dialogue feeling forced and not really suiting her character all that well, though Michael Lerner makes for a decent enough bad guy and plays his mafia boss sufficiently enough. Kelly Hu even pops up here in a brief supporting role and it's kind of fun to see her in the movie, even if she's underused and appears only for a few minutes.

The movie clicks along at a good pace and features some moderately entertaining action set pieces. The movie delivers a few shoot-outs and a couple of good fist fights alongside a well executed high jacking sequence along with the requisite car chase. There's enough going on in the movie that as cliché heavy as it all is, at least it's entertaining enough. The plot is ultimately more than just a tad predictable and again, the whole thing feels like a knock off (you can't help but think of Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop in spots) but even if you know where it's all going and which characters are going to make it through, seeing it all come together is kind of fun.

Don't go into No Way Back expecting anything more than the utmost in mediocrity, but at least the movie's got enough cheap-jack entertainment value that you could do worse. If the idea of Russell Crowe taking on various parts of the criminal underworld appeals to you and you can look past an obnoxious Helen Slater, give it a shot.

The DVD:

The Video:

No Way Back debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. While there isn't a whole lot of print damage to note, the picture suffers from some constant softness, something that could be inherent in the original source material. That said, there's more detail here than you'd get from a standard definition transfer and it definitely looks like HD, it just isn't going to wow you. Skin tones and color reproduction are fine and the image is clean enough that it doesn't appear that any digital scrubbing has been applied. Compression artifacts are non-existent and there's only some very slight edge enhancement present in a couple of scenes. All in all, the movie looks fine.

The Audio:

The sole audio option on this disc is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, in English, with optional subtitles provided in English, English SDH, and Spanish. While the TrueHD track is definitely anchored around the front of the mix, there is some noticeable rear channel action during some of the action scenes but these are exceptions and don't make themselves known all that often. While not a particularly aggressive mix, dialogue is always clear and easy to understand though the score doesn't really envelope you as much as it could have and as such, and parts of it sound flat. Bass response is tepid, in that it's there but it doesn't pack much punch, though there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about.

The Extras:

Sony has provided a few trailers that play before you can get to the main menu screen, and some chapter stops, but that's it.

Overall:

A wholly mediocre thriller, No Way Back will be of passing interesting to Russell Crowe fans and those who enjoy low budget action movies but outside of that group, it'll probably fall pretty flat. The movie has moments and it's entertaining enough but it just doesn't have enough going for it to differentiate itself from the zillions of other similar films out there and while the transfer and audio are fine here, the disc is essentially barebones. It's amusing enough, but not one you need to see time and time again. Rent it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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