NO EXIT Poster | ©2022 20th Century Studios/Hulu

NO EXIT Poster | ©2022 20th Century Studios/Hulu

Rating: R
Stars: Havana Rose Liu, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl, Dale Dickey, Mila Harris, Dennis Haysbert
Writers: Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari, based on the novel by Taylor Adams
Director: Damien Power
Distributor: 20th Century Studios/Hulu
Release Date: February 25, 2022

NO EXIT, now streaming on Hulu, is gratifyingly tight. Director Damien Power and writers Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari have adapted Taylor Adams’s novel into a no-frills thriller that packs in a lot of suspense with a small cast and few locations.

At the start, we meet Darby (Havana Rose Liu). Darby is a young woman unhappily doing a stint (not her first) in an in-patient drug recovery center in Sacramento. When Darby gets a call that her mother has had a brain aneurysm and is in a Utah hospital, a sense of urgency rises. Never mind that sister Devon insists that nobody wants Darby there. Darby breaks out, steals a car, and heads for Salt Lake City.

Darby doesn’t reckon with a ferocious snowstorm that shuts down the Interstate and pretty much everything else. After the car gets stuck in a snowbank, a helpful highway patrolman directs Darby to a nearby visitors’ center where she can wait out the weather.

There are already four people in the center. Ed (Dennis Haysbert) is a former U.S. Marine who would like everyone to join him in a game of cards. Sandi (Dale Dickey), a former nurse, is Ed’s wife. Lars (David Rysdahl) is an intellectually challenged young man with a temper. Ash (Danny Ramirez), another young man, is more affable and neurotypical.

Darby would like to relax a little – nobody here is going to lecture her on addiction, much less turn her in – but she needs to find out what’s happening with her mom. She goes outside to try to get a signal on her phone so she can call her sister. This is when Darby discovers a van in the parking lot, containing a terrified, tied-up little girl (Mila Harris) in back.

At this point, tension starts to ratchet up. We don’t know who owns the van, or what secrets other characters may hold.

NO EXIT Poster | ©2022 20th Century Studios/Hulu

NO EXIT Poster | ©2022 20th Century Studios/Hulu

While it’s not as absurdist or quirky, NO EXIT has a bit of FARGO-style energy to it. Everyone turns out to be pretty evenly matched, with no far-sighted evil geniuses or brilliant superheroes in the bunch. The more we learn about what’s going on, the more sense it makes.

The violence is largely confined to the third act, but when it arrives, it hits hard and bloody. By then, we are solidly rooting for Darby, although the film has compassion for even those who do horrible things.

The acting is excellent across the board, with Liu carrying us all the way through. Director Power succeeds in making us feel trapped along with the characters, without making us wish for more people or locations.

The pace is also shrewd. Twists and revelations are spaced so that, even when it seems like we have all the facts in hand, the filmmakers earn our trust that another surprise is on the way.

NO EXIT is modest in scale, but it delivers very well within the parameters it sets for itself.

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