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Early in No Way Out, the paranoid political thriller starring Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman, there is a scene where Costner meets Sean Young at a party, and they start making out in the back of a limo. Specifically, they meet at Omni Shoreham Hotel, located right off Calvert in Woodley Park, and they get to third base just as the limo is passing the Monuments. There must be some PA for the film who figured it out, because the timing is absolutely perfect. Except for maybe Breach, No Way Out is the rare DC movie that actually thinks about its locations. Most of the time.

The plot is ridiculous, sort of like House of Cards without the dark irony. Costner places a Navy Intelligence Officer who gets placed on a detail with the Secretary of Defense (Hackman). Soon Costner realizes they’re sleeping with a same woman, and after the Secretary accidentally kills her, he covers it up with a manufactured scandal that a third party – a Soviet spy – did the deed. In effect, Costner has to hunt for himself. There are lots of twists along the way, and the script mostly works when Costner and his foil Will Patton must think on their feet.

But what makes No Way Out a fun watch is its use of DC. There is a car chase where Costner tracks down some assassins on Whitehurst Freeway, blocks their cars, and then there’s a foot chase along the C&O Canal in Georgetown. This is physically and geographically plausible, at least until Costner gets on the Metro in Georgetown (whoops), and he takes Baltimore’s mass transit to the Inner Harbor Galleria. For a movie that up until that point emphasizes real locations, this is an egregious error.

What’s even worse is how the climax hinges on gay panic: Patton’s character – Hackman’s right-hand man – plays a sleazy murderer who’s motivated by his lust for Hackman (think of the Smithers/Burns relationship, except deadly serious). When the final twist comes, one that resonates with our current political clusterfuck, it is lost in a fog of cheesy music and outdated prejudice.

 

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