It is essentially a rule of Hollywood — become a big enough star and all your early work (the stuff from before you were a global superstar), no matter how bad, will get released to every new medium. While there is absolutely some sort of pride that an actor or actress can take from this, it can also be somewhat embarrassing. That has to be the exact sort of issue Russell Crowe is going through now that No Way Back has been released on Blu-ray. The film, which stars Crowe as a rogue FBI agent struggling to get his kidnapped son back, is certainly a minor work in the Crowe cannon, one best left forgotten.
Zack Grant (Crowe) starts the movie in charge of a sting operation to take down the son of mafia kingpin, Frank Serlano (Michael Lerner). Things don't go as planned, the son dies, and Grant's only lead after things go south takes him to the Yakuza member named Yuji (Etsushi Toyokawa). It would be all well and good, Grant good turn Yuji right over to the FBI if Serlano acting in "good-for-the-goose-good-for-the-gander" mode hadn't kidnapped Grant's kid.
The rest of the movie finds Grant trying to brink Yuji to Serlano despite Yuji's best attempts to waylay Grant. Some of those actually make for the best moments in the film — particularly the utterly impossible landing of a 747 on a miniscule backwoods runway. That particular scene is unquestionably the height of the film's "so bad it's good" moments.
Because every film, even an action one, requires a love interest, No Way Back offers us Helen Slater's incredibly over-eager and naïve flight attendant, Mary. Grant, already in a bad movie, isn't particularly nice to Mary, but, watching the film one might think that he actually doesn't go far enough.
The film is almost made more interesting by the fact that there are multiple bad and good faction out following Grant and company, but the rapidity with which every group except for the hero's moves negates that advantage almost entirely. The rest of the advantage is eliminated as soon as one considers the fact that no matter whether Grant is off road or on, everyone is able to find them instantly. It is as though Grant has a hidden tracking device on him that both the cops and robbers have access to and which Grant knows nothing about.
One of the other main reasons that the film fails is that the result is never, ever in doubt, as much as the film might wish it were. There's a whole lot of hemming and hawing over whether or not Grant will turn Yuji over to Serlano in order to get back his own kid. Grant insists that he absolutely will, and everyone on screen seems to accept that. The audience, however, won't buy it for a minute — in movies, FBI agents don't turn one bad guy over to another bad guy in order to rescue the innocent kidnapped party. It just doesn't happen, particularly in films that are as by-the-book as this one.
The Blu-ray release contains no special whatsoever, and isn't particularly good in its own right. Much of the film is dark, but there's absolutely no differentiation between one black and the next on screen. Where does black hair end and a shirt begin? Where does the shirt end and the background begin? It's incredibly difficult to tell with the poor visual quality of the release. The sound too has some major issues. All too often, the dialogue comes out murky and muddled, Crowe talking in a large open area will sound like him in a tightly confined space talking through a thick layer of gauze. In short, neither the audio nor the video presentation do anything to convince the audience that the release is more than a way to use Crowe's star status to cash in on a poor movie.
If one is truly desperate for Russell Crowe or just curious as to what Ian Ziering looks like as a skinhead, No Way Back may have some redeeming qualities. If one is looking for decent action or an adequate cops and robbers and other robbers flick, this will not fit the bill.