Film Review: No One Lives

Blood may be thicker than water, but it flows just as freely in this artistically bankrupt thriller.

Even those without knowledge of Brodus Clay’s job at World Wrestling Entertainment should have no trouble picking out his character in WWE Studios’ No One Lives. In his role as a gangster named Ethan, he’s the only actor big enough to fight for a heavyweight belt. Despite his size, he doesn’t stand a chance against the psychopath at the film’s center (Luke Evans). When the massive gangster (Clay) cuts the neck of the man’s partner-in-crime, Betty (Laura Ramsey), in an attempted kidnapping, it’s clear he’s not long for this world. The unnamed psychopath’s killer instinct is such that he avenges the injury by puncturing Ethan’s jaw with a set of handcuffs. While that isn’t necessarily deadly, Ethan’s fate is sealed by the time the killer climbs into his World Wrestling-sized carcass, using it as a Trojan horse to infiltrate the gang that comes to claim the body.

That might be the high point of the bloodletting, but with Midnight Meat Train director Ryûhei Kitamura at the helm, there’s more where that came from, even if it doesn't always result in death. After a failed escape, it’s a surprise for the audience to discover that the kidnapped Emma (Adelaide Clemens), yet another one of the psychopath’s victims, is still breathing. Hidden in the back of a trailer truck, she’s excess baggage on his relocation to a place where he and Betty can turn over a new leaf. The aforementioned outlaws get hold of the trailer where she’s hiding and stumble upon Emma, an heiress who’s been missing so long there’s a reward for anyone who can rescue her. Now all they have to do is get her out of their digs before her worst nightmare shows up.

There’s a sense the murderer won’t kill Emma, given the hints of Stockholm syndrome she’s dropping. Then again, he’s got plenty of blood on his hands with the massacre he’s started, which involves one odd weapon after another—although it does seem a bit bizarre that he’d happen to have a harpoon gun and wood chipper handy.

This is a movie that depends completely on gore. David Lawrence Cohen’s engaging dialogue is weakened by moments that play out under strange circumstances. It also doesn’t help that his script fails to provide most of the cast with memorable characters. But Clemens does a fine job working out Emma’s complexities to make her believable and sympathetic. All the same, the one who deserves the most sympathy here is Evans—he might not give the strongest performance, but audiences should keep in mind that it’s difficult to play a maniac, particularly one who carries out deeds so extreme it’s hard to take them seriously. Imagine Straw Dogs starring Wile E. Coyote.