No Way Back [1995]

The FBI, the Mafia, and the Yakuza (Japanese gangsters) fight to the death in this nonstop action thriller starring Russell Crowe (Gladiator). FBI agent Zack Grant (Crowe) sends beautiful rookie operative Seiko (Kelly Hu) on a sting operation against the depraved, skinhead son of a Mafia kingpin. Little does he know that Seiko is on a revenge mission of her own. This bloody situation escalates into all-out war, as the Mafia kingpin, Frank Serlano (Michael Lerner), and the head Yakuza, Yuji (Etsushi Toyokawa), get into the act. Grant is forced to go renegade from the bureau when Serlano kidnaps his young son, a plot point that certainly raises the story's emotional stakes. During an exciting airplane hijacking sequence, we meet Mary (Helen Slater), a dizzy blonde flight attendant who introduces an unexpected note of comic relief to the proceedings (along with a touch of romance). Crowe is convincing in Dirty Harry mode, bringing his characteristic intensity and empathy to the role. It's fun to watch a former Miss Hawaii, Kelly Hu, display her martial arts mastery, and the performances of Slater and Toyokawa are a cut above the action-genre norm. Still and all, No Way Back falls squarely into the "guilty pleasure" movie category. Writer-director Frank A. Cappello (American Yakuza), provides plenty of slam-bang, shoot-'em-up action, plus enough nail-biting suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. --Laura Mirsky

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