They are unlikely allies standing on opposite sides of the invisible wall separating law and order from crime and chaos. Zack Grant is an FBI agent with a serious problem. He's been responsible for a string of operations so disastrous that his career is in ruins; on the homefront, he has a beautiful seven year old son he blames for every personal misfortune. Yuji Koyabashi is the head of the Koyabashi family, the largest and most important Yakuza (Japanese mafia) clan in America. Smart, cunning and ruthless when he needs to be, Yuji is in his prime; powerful, confident, and poised for yet another win.
They are adversaries who never expected to meet, have nothing in common but their opposing views of the law, and are culturally and morally segregated - until fate, and a chance for redemption, brings them together. Now they must overcome their differences and inherent prejudices to defeat a common enemy.
Overseas Filmgroup presents A Neo Pictures/Ozla Pictures Inc. presentation of NO WAY BACK, a gripping action film starring Russell Crowe, Etsushi Toyokawa, Helen Slater and Michael Lerner, written and directed by Frank Cappello. The producers are Joel Soisson and Ak, Komine, the executive producers are Taka Ichise, Michael Leahy and W.K. Border. (Credits not contractual.)
When Special Agent Zack Grant (Russell Crowe) sends a new operative on a mission to infiltrate the stronghold of Victor Serlano, a mafia kingpin's firstborn son, the plan goes disastrously awry and Zack finds himself with a mafia vendetta on his hands. Victor's father (Michael Lerner) has brutal revenge on his mind and his target is Yuji (Etsushi Toyokawa), the Japanese Yakaza he believes is responsible for his son's death.
The stakes shoot sky high when Serlano kidnaps Zack's young son and issues a life or death ultimatum: Yuji, Zack's prisoner, in exchange for Eric, Zack's son. Zack's journey to deliver Yuji to certain death in order to rescue his son is further complicated by an unexpected companion named Mary (Helen Slater), a novice flight attendant with a penchant for song.
As the unlikely trio of Zack, Yuji and Mary makes its way to the rendezvous with Serlano, the FBI is hot on their trail, believing Zack has changed sides; members of the Yakuza follow in pursuit on a kill or be killed mission to rescue Yuji. The final, gripping, confrontation, on Serlano's boat in the dead of night, gives Zack a one in a million chance to walk away with his life and that of his son intact.
"I always loved flawed characters," says writer/director Frank Cappello, "because usually they're the most interesting and compelling...and entertaining. Like normal everyday people, their motivations are a mixture of greed, selfishness and emotional upheaval. I'm happy to say NO WAY BACK is made up of such a perverse, weird - not to mention enjoyable - mix." The film may be interpreted on a number of levels, according to the filmmaker. At its broadest, NO WAY BACK is MIDNIGHT RUN with an edge. "Here are these two totally different guys, thrown together in a situation where they grow to need each other to survive, all the while running for their lives in the desert. It's really quite funny," says Cappello.
Each of the main characters, however, also seems to be running from some internal demons. "The catalyst for each individual's actions in the film is due to a troubled or unsettled family life," Cappello continued. "In one way or another, Zack, Yuji and Serlano are all trying to make amends for their screw-ups with their families. They each have motives that propel them - and underscore their deeds. When it comes to their families, each of the three main male characters is very well meaning but equally as different. It almost comes a surprise to both the characters in the film and the audience that their reactions to the circumstances are so emotionally charged."
"My character of Zack lives his life fully in a state of suppression," actor Russell Crowe notes. "He's really ruled himself out of the living. You see, his wife died during childbirth; even seven years later his young son constantly reminds him of his loss. He's living with this burden of guilt, blaming himself for her death, and of course it's unfounded. He throws himself into his work and practically refuses to acknowledge his own son. How can he put his career above his kid? It isn't until he almost loses his son as well that he's finally jolted into realizing what's truly important...and the real luck that he has."
Conversely, the character of Serlano adores his son and upon his death goes to all extremes to avenge his loss. "I think of Serlano as an ax-teamster who will stop at nothing to get even," says Michael Lerner, the actor who portrays the role. "He loved his son more than life itself, and he'll terrorize the world, if he has to, for vengeance and retribution. I gotta tell you: he's a great character to play. " Yakuza kingpin Yuji has similar remorse. ~He blames himself for his beloved sister's death and has great shame in his family," states popular Japanese actor Etsushi Toyokawa.
Helen Slater brings a comedic touch to the situation, at the same time serving as the social consciousness of the audience. "I literally ask the questions I think filmgoers will be thinking about," she says. "Mary, my character, is a chatty, loopy, quirky flight attendant who doesn't understand all that's going on around her. She realizes the situation soon enough and perceives Yuji is innocent, but she knows that Zack is also in a terrible conflict with his son. Yet she questions him: Why is he doing this? How can he take this guy (Yuji) to his death? Mary wises up very quickly."
NO WAY BACK was filmed throughout the Los Angeles area during the Fall of 1994. It's the sort of project that most interests Neo Motion Pictures, the producing company, and its principals: It's filled with action, suspense, pathos and comedy. "This is really quite a fun movie," says executive producer W.K. Border. "All right, I admit it: A few people die in this film. Others are threatened. There's also some wonderful emotional moments. But I believe people will walk away from the picture remembering the humor; after all, here are these two guys in dark suits, out of shape, running after each other in the desert, trying to catch each other but they can't, and they're only a couple of feet away from each other. As a sight gag, it works very well."
But, as with the rest of NO WAY BACK, the sequence plays on another level as well. Continues Border: "Just when these two guys - an American and a Japanese - are at their wits' end, they each manage to pull a gun on each other. That's when Mary begins to sing 'America The Beautiful.' These two cultural enemies are dumbLounded, and it's in this moment they begin to change. It's a haunting scene I'll probably never forget.