Being a huge Steven Seagal and Charles Bronson fan I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of bad action films. The only thing that makes a bad action film great is the lead star, the caliber of over-the-top action, and the number of great but corny one-liners. Steven Seagal excels in this warped genre, seeing Russell Crowe in a similar role is a bit odd, but I guess you can't be too picky on your first few roles in the American film market. It's simply too bad he wasn't teamed up with Seagal, that might have actually made this film something to see.
No Way Back features Crowe as FBI Agent Zack Grant, whose been on a case to bring down mafia boss Frank Serlano. Currently he's trying to find some incriminating evidence on Serlano by tapping the conversations of his son, who is the leader of a group of skinheads. In order to do this Grant sends in a rookie agent named Seiko (Kelly Hu), she'll enter his hotel under the guise of a call girl in order to properly place the bug. But things go a rye when Seiko deviates from the plan and kills everyone in the hotel, and then commits suicide.
Zack obtains Seiko's recent phone records and is able to find a possible lead for the individual who may have coerced Seiko to go rogue, his name is Yuji the leader of a criminal network in Japan. In order to save his job with the FBI, and keep Serlano from taking him out for the death of his son, Zack travels to Japan in hopes of gaining some useful information from Yuji. Serlano sends his men to tail him with the order to recover whomever Zack is going to bring back or kill Zack. But with both Zack and Yuji get away, Serlano kidnaps Zack's son with the delivery of Yuji as the ransom. If Zack doesn't deliver Yuji to Serlano, his son dies, if he does he'll then be considered rogue and the FBI will hunt him down.
No Way Back must have been a direct to video release, because it's too awful and low budget to have been released on the big screen. Campy direct to video action films are easily discernible by awful music, a convoluted story and horrible acting, it's all here. Sadly I can't even say Russell's performance was that great, this is really a type of film you can't try to act in, otherwise you simply come off as corny as the script itself. This is why Seagal excels in these films, he's actually been a sheriffs deputy for over 20 years in Louisiana so the Seagal you see in his cop films is close to the Seagal in real life he's not acting.
Russell Crowe simply feels out of place because all his work up to this has been better, and he's given a lot better performances. Good actors in low budget action films don't mix. In Virtuosity he was able to excel above the bad story because his character was so unique and because he had someone like Denzel to bounce off of; there's none of that here. Plus throw in an awful and annoying performance by Helen Slater and No Way Back stays completely true to it's name, there's no way back for this cheese ball of a film.
Still for the Seagal loving, bad action film fan in me, No Way Back manages to be consistently bad to a point it's halfway entertaining. I actually enjoyed the film as a whole a little more than Virtuosity, even though the performances were all bad to mediocre. The best scene in the film is when Slater and Crowe are arguing who the better starship Captain was, Kirk or Picard, then Yuji chimes in and says that Sulu would have been the best if he had been Captain, for the Star Trek nerd in me I found that quite amusing. Overall, No Way Back was another low budget cornball action film that simply can't compare with the more top notched cornball action.