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No Way Out
1987 - R - 116 Mins.
Director: Roger Donaldson
Written By: Robert Garland
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton, David Paymer
Review by: John Ulmer
Having lived around the outskirts of Washington, D.C. myself, it's always a nice treat to watch a film that literally takes place right where I have stood, at one time or another. It's just very fun to know that a famous movie was shot where you once walked. (Although I now regret visiting the set of "101 Dalmations" in London--that's one story I don't often tell people with a smile on my face.)

At the beginning of "No Way Out," we get to see Washington from above as the camera glides through the air, swerving and going around in circles, until we land inside a small interrogation room housing a convicted murderer (Kevin Costner), who is in fact innocent and has been framed. "When's he coming out?" he asks as he walks over to a one-way mirror and looks through the glass. Right as we start to think, "Whom is he talking to?" (Or "Does he mean Hackman?" if you've read anything about the film), we fall backwards in time and land in the same place some number of months earlier.

"No Way Out" is a government thriller about an officer wrongly accused of murder--when the Secretary of State himself is the culprit trying to avoid a scandal by launching a top-secret cover-up. Costner is the officer, and Gene Hackman is the Secretary of State. After meeting a beautiful young woman (Sean Young) at a party, Costner takes her into a limo and they have a quickie--before they even know each other's names.

What's this got to do with anything? Why is my review so choppy and linear-challenged? We'll get there.

The relationship between the two turns into a big romance until Costner is sent out to sea, where he saves a sailor from falling overboard and is praised in all the papers--where his girlfriend back home sees his face and is reminded of him. (Now she's the mistress of Hackman, by the way--that complicates matters quite a bit.)

When he arrives back home, they go on a romantic getaway--but Hackman finds out and accidentally murders the girl while trying to get her to tell him the name of her lover. Ready to turn himself in, Hackman is persuaded by his gay friend to cover everything up and blame someone else. The gay man even goes and gets rid of the evidence himself--with pride, I might add. (It's like Mr. Burns and Smithers from "The Simpsons"--the latter loves the former, but the former is too powerful and naive to ever notice.)

The clever twist in "No Way Out" is that Costner knows Hackman killed Young, but Hackman doesn't know that he knows that. (Get it?) As he runs around the Pentagon and other government establishments, the evidence starts to pile up against him--the negative off the back of a Polaroid camera, a few eyewitnesses who claim they saw a man outside Young's apartment the night of her murder, etc.

The great thing about "No Way Out," and another factor that separates it from the rest of its kind, is something that's hard to explain to someone who hasn't seen the film. Essentially, no one knows who killed the girl--and Costner isn't placed under arrest straight away because no one has uncovered any evidence pointing towards him. As the negative off the back of the Polaroid is scanned through a computer and painstakingly altered to reveal the man's face on the photo, Costner runs around trying to eliminate evidence before anyone finds out. The photo will eventually reveal his own face, yes, but he has a number of hours until then to find the true evidence that convicts Hackman.

This is a smart thriller with a few pleasant twists, particularly the very end. It's not a great movie by any means, but it's well-acted and solidly directed by Roger Donaldson, who also made last year's "The Recruit" with Al Pacino and Colin Farrell. The guy obviously likes government thrillers. This one is a lot more plausible than "The Recruit," too.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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