*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"No Escape" (1953) refers to the difficulty in escaping from San Francisco when its roads and bridges are closed off by police. It also refers to the predicaments faced by the three main characters in the story. There are in fact always escapes but they are not what they envision or want.
The film has a solid story idea. Marjorie Steele hits James Griffith over the head with a vase in his apartment when he makes improper advances. She flees. The next day she finds out he's dead. Lew Ayres plays a washed up songwriter who drinks and gets by (or hustles) with low class bar entertainment. He does, however, come up with a good new song. While this fleshes out his character and adds some interest to one or two sequences in the movie, it's not integral to the plot. Sonny Tufts is a policeman and beau of Steele. He urges her to cover up by saying nothing because the police know nothing about her role. He's removed her gloves from Griffith's apartment. There's a sketch that could be incriminating, but Ayres got it when he visited the apartment. He left plenty of evidence there to incriminate himself in the death, and also there's circumstantial evidence against him as he argued with Griffith. Steele is attracted to Ayres, and her conscience is ringing alarm bells because she doesn't want to see Ayres take the rap for a crime she is sure she committed.
That's the story's setup, and it leads into decent enough complications in which Steele wants to protect Ayres. Tufts wants to protect Steele. Steele wants also to protect Tufts and his job since he has participated in a coverup. And Ayres comes to want to protect Steele.
The script and story are not well-paced. There are some implausibilities. These would present challenges even to a very good cast and director, but here the movie has even more serious problems. Sonny Tufts has a key role but his acting is inadequate and quite often awkward. This interrupts our immersion into the story, and that's a real problem. Steele has some difficult emotional shifts to convey and she's not really up to it. Ayres is the strongest in his part, even if it's very much against type. Yet the script and directing make even him look bad at times. The final action plays raggedy too.
The result is a flawed below-par noir. Nevertheless, noir completist that I am, I enjoyed watching the film. My enjoyment of a film and that film's quality are somewhat correlated but not perfectly so.