No Way to Escape (2021)

Rating: B-

Dir: Yun-Fei Lu
Star: Sai-Chu Yu, You-Xuan Wu, Dong-Mei Xu, Dieter Ger

This is a sprightly and energetic Chinese knock-off, borrowing heavily from Resident Evil and Aliens in particular. There’s a research lab deep underground, in the middle of the Gobi Desert, which has suddenly gone radio silent. The research they were doing there was… well, I’m not 100% certain quite what it involved. While a lot of the dialogue in this is in “English”, I’m using quotes advisedly. Especially on the scientific front, it seems to be more of an enthusiastic word-salad, like “by chance, precise data from the gamma variable appear,” throwing jargon about radiation and DNA splicing into the mix, in lieu of anything coherent. Anyway, it seems Ohm Technology are into some fairly shady shit, to nobody’s surprise.

A group is sent out to find out what happened, and more importantly, bring everything back on line. The only man who can do it, apparently, is Doctor Haven, a kinda autistic super-scientist, who’d like to get his hands on the data. To protect him, three Lara Croft-alikes are assigned: leader Bai Zhi (Yu), the flirty Bi Jiao (Wu); and veteran Gui Che (Xu). Also coming along are a bunch of cannon fodder, and leader of the mission, Principal Gabon (Ger), who is clearly evil because he’s played by a Westerner. They haven’t even reached the base before they encounter the local fauna: scorpions that can swim through human flesh like water. So if you stand on one, it’ll pop out the top of your head.

These are, at least, only normal sized. But when the expeditions enters into the base, the women are appalled to discover this isn’t the rescue mission intended, with any survivors being ruthlessly gunned-down by Gabon’s men. [Those foreign devils…] Turns out he intends to seize the technology and use it for nefarious purposes, but not everyone is in favor of this. The heroic trio rebel, Dr. Haven refuses to get the systems running again, and even some of his own men decide they can’t in good conscience take part in Gabon’s plan. All of which would be merely morally interesting, if it weren’t for the F-sized version of the scorpions roaming the facility due to leakage of gamma rays. Or something.

You’d be hard-pushed to identify anything new or particularly innovative here. But it keeps moving, without significant downtime, and there’s enough background to make it feel more than you’re just watching a video-game. For instance, Bai Zhi is there partly to look for her fiance, who worked at the base before he suddenly vanished. There’s also a lot more interaction between the characters and the monsters than we usually see in this kind of thing. Though the quality of the combination FX is uneven, and the editing of the action is sometimes choppily incoherent. No great matter. This is a film pitting soldiers against freakin’ giant scorpions, and firmly checks the boxes of what you would want and expect from such a production. 

This review is part of our feature, When Chinese Animals Attack.