Why No Mention of Thailand or Its Language in Owen Wilson/Pierce Brosnan Thriller "No Escape"

Owen Wilson in "No Escape"

When I was writing my review of the Owen Wilson/Pierce Brosnan action thriller “No Escape,” I was surprised -- and curious -- to find that there’s NOT a single mention of Thailand in the film’s official synopsis. It just uses “Southeast Asia” as the setting.

As you can see from my review, I used Thailand from the get-go. I’m not exactly sure why Thailand immediately sprang to my mind. Maybe it’s because coups happen in that country about every four years, like a presidential election in the U.S. (except for the obvious differences). One major difference from the film is that the coups in Thailand tend to be led by an organized military that sets curfews and not rebels who goes around the country hacking innocent civilians into pieces.

Anyway, after a little bit of research, I found out that “No Escape” was originally set in Cambodia, but because Bold Films (the company financing the film) couldn’t get the clearance from the government to shoot there, they moved their operations to Thailand. There, the cast and crew were aided by a local production company. The Thai government gave Bold Films the go-ahead as long as the film does not mention Thailand or use its language (written or spoken) in the film; and the Thai people are depicted in a good light. This explains a lot.

First, it explains why no synopsis for the film on the internet mentions the country.

Second, Thai characters either speak in broken English or not at all.

Third, Thai civilians are depicted as helpful and kind, while the rebels are as cruel and evil as you get can in a movie. Still, because the latter’s acts are so horrendous, a lot of critics, while praising the film’s execution (“well-made,” “taut,” “breathless”), were still turned off by the seemingly depicted xenophobia.

Where do I stand? I did like the film, so the acts from the helpful/kind civilians did outweigh those of the cold-hearted rebels; but although I’m Asian, I’m not Thai. I’m sure if those rebels were Chinese, I would react differently. I mean, the rebel leader is an innocent people-hacking, women-raping, kids-torturing, pure-evil bad guy. Sure, it’s just a movie, but still, I can see why most critics would object to people from another country being depicted that way.

“No Escape” is banned in Cambodia, and although there are reports of it being banned in Thailand too, they have been debunked.

The film opened on Wednesday to $1.2M and is estimated to pull in $10M by the end of the week. I’m not sure how much Bold Films used to make the film, but The Weinstein Company picked up the distribution rights for just $5M, so at least one of them will make a decent profit when it’s all said and done.

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