Pic-n-Mix Cop Movie
In "No Way Back" a pre-Gladiator Russell Crowe stars of as a pissed off FBI Agent and Crowe plays the part well, well to be honest I don't know if Crowe plays the part well or is just pissed off at being in not only a routine cop movie but one which is a pic-n-mix of styles. At some points it feels like it's trying to be "Midnight Run" the next it seems like Crowe is being asked to act in a Mel Gibson "Lethal Weapon" sort of way and then the comedy of Helen Slater as an overly kind and chatty air stewardess clashes with everything else. Basically whilst "No Way Back" has a storyline it doesn't know what it is and the end result is a movie which crashes from one style to another.
FBI Agent Zack Grant's (Russell Crowe - The Quick and the Dead) rookie partner Seiko (Kelly Hu) dies during an operation to plant a bug in the room of racist skinhead Victor Serlano (Ian Ziering), son of Mafia boss Frank Serlano (Michael Lerner - Barton Fink) but before she dies she turns assassin and not only kills Victor but his gang of skinheads. Determined to get to the bottom of why Seiko turned killer leads Zack to Yuji Kobayashi (Etsushi Toyokawa) a member of the Yakuza who Seiko had been in contact with. But at the same time Frank Serlano wants revenge and kidnaps Zack's young son Eric (Andrew J. Ferchland) forcing Zack to play ball and take Yuji to him. And just to complicate things there is the naive, bubbly and overly nice air stewardess Mary (Helen Slater - City Slickers) who finds herself stuck in the middle of this when Yuji tries to escape taking her hostage.
Director Frank A. Cappello also wrote "No Way Back" but it has that feel of a movie made by someone who has watched lots of FBI/cop movies and combined various elements from story to characters to create something which might have seemed new but was in truth familiar. As such you can strip "No Way Back" into various typical elements such as a mafia boss want revenge for the death of their son, a son who just happens to be the head of a neo-Nazi gang. There is also the fact that Zack is a single dad, his wife died in child birth and for just an added element of familiarity we have the Yakuza dragged in.
And that is not the worst of this because Russell Crowe seems to have been asked to play Zack in a Martin Riggs sort of way, making him dangerous, troubled, aggressive and pissed off with just a touch of cynical wit. It doesn't work and whilst Crowe tries his best to make the character entertaining it ends up feeling like Crowe just going through the motions. Worse comes from Helen Slater cast as overly nice Mary, the air stewardess who gets caught up in the mess, I know the character of Mary was included as the catalyst for some humour as her incessant chatting annoys Zack but it really doesn't work and annoys the watcher as much as Zack's character.
I could go on ripping "No Way Back" to pieces from unbelievable yet not that exciting action to Michael Lerner as Frank Serlano playing a seriously inconsistent Mafia boss. But the one thing I have to mention is "In the Line of Fire" as if you saw that Clint Eastwood movie you will remember that non metallic gun which John Malkovich's character makes. That very same gun miraculously turns up here and whilst a valid tool of the movie you can't stop yourself from thinking that at least they could have made it look different.
What this all boils down to is that "No Way Back" is not a good movie and at times edges close to being so bad that it is entertaining. But an inconsistent style with very little originality makes it ultimately ordinary and weak in comparison to other similar movies.