TIFF 2012: NO ONE LIVES Review

     September 13, 2012


Ryûhei Kitamura‘s No One Lives is trying so hard to be cool, it hurts.  It is a complete and utter wreck of a screenplay that sounds like it was written by an idiotic 16-year-old boy.  The acting is abysmal, and only made worse by the fact that there are real actors put side-by-side with amateur ones.  Kitamura’s earlier film, Versus, wasn’t a great, but it at least showed some kinetic energy.  However, that kind of slick movement, or any personality beyond a generic slasher, is completely absent from his new movie.  All it has to offer is gruesome kills, and not even particularly inventive ones at that.  But hey, the protagonist is a violent psychopath in a black trench coat, so I guess that means this movie has a personality.  It’s just a personality no one wants to be around.

No One Lives gets off on a rough start from the get go as it sets up three mysteries rather than simply trying to establish setting and character.  The opening scene shows a girl running in the woods from an unseen pursuer.  After she falls into a snare trap, we move to a completely unrelated scene of an unnamed man (Luke Evans) and his girlfriend Betty (Laura Ramsey) happily traveling along to an unknown destination.  We also discover that Betty has a mysterious scar on her waist.  Then we move to another unrelated scene of a gang robbing a upper-class home, and the heist going horribly awry when the house’s family comes home early.


David Cohen‘s wretched excuse for a script wants to set up a collision course between the plot lines, but it feels tedious and only becomes more so when the gang, with its de facto leader/BAD GUY Flynn (Derek Magyar), decides to kidnap the nameless man and Betty, and torture them to get more money or something.  Betty, for a reason that’s never explained, kills herself on the knife held to her throat, and the nameless man reveals his true nature: he’s a full-blown psychopath who now wishes to kill the entire gang simply because that would be neat and stuff.  And as for the girl at the beginning, Emma (Adelaide Clemens), we discover that she’s his hostage, and has been for eight months.  Her purpose is to tell the gang how they could have protected themselves only after the gang has ruined that opportunity

Cohen fails to understand why his script has absolutely no tension.  Nameless isn’t a character, but a bland function whose only purpose is to say “cool”, heartless bits of dialogue to his prey before killing them.  He can also do anything.  He can fight, he can set traps, he knows exactly where to go, and is basically un-killable.  And you pit this guy against six hapless criminals who have none of our sympathy.  With the exception of Flynn, the bad guys aren’t so bad, but they’re not innocent enough to warrant sympathy for their survival.  They’re just meat, and he’s the grinder, so all No One Lives has to offer is gore.


It certainly doesn’t bother with good performances.  It’s almost worse that they hired a few real actors rather than having the whole cast be terrible.  At least then there may have been a bit of a camp factor.  Instead, Evans, Clemmens, and Lee Tergesen (who plays the oldest member of the gang) are serviceable at best, and they’re still miles ahead of the rest of the cast.  It’s like the other cast members had no idea where to put the emphasis in their lines, so they spun a wheel and hoped for the best.  Like most gamblers, they lost and they lost big.

No One Lives is a movie where people actually say lines like “By your lead,” and “I’m your path to living, and you’re playing with dynamite.”  At one point, Evans flat out refers to himself as a “total psychopath.”  That’s for the audience members who may have been confused by his brutal, heartless, nonsensical behavior.  Even for a movie based entirely on gore, Kitamura beings nothing special to the table except the proof that he had access to lots of fake blood.  There’s not an ounce of creativity, so in that fashion, Kitamura at least keeps his tone consistent.  No One Lives is atrocious through-and-through.

Rating: F

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