April 04, 2009

The Escapist

Reviewed by Martin Tsai
“The Escapist” is a British indie thriller in the tradition of “Shallow Grave,” “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “The Descent,” in the sense that filmmaker Rupert Wyatt has clearly fashioned a film with the aim to impress so he can follow in the footsteps of Danny Boyle, Guy Ritchie and Neil Marshall all the way to Hollywood. By casting the estimable Brian Cox along with a solid group of where-have-we-seen-them-before character actors, Mr. Wyatt succeeds in grabbing our attention from jump street. The soundtrack even features an original song by Coldplay.
Mr. Cox plays Frank, who is serving a life sentence in a prison so ancient it’s almost medieval. Upon learning that his daughter is gravely ill, Frank determines to break out. He recruits a crew of very capable accomplices such as the unrecognizably bulked-up Joseph Fiennes, Liam Cunningham of “Hunger” and Dominic Cooper of “Mamma Mia!” Meanwhile, the fearsome inmate ringleaders, played by Steven Macintosh and Damian Lewis, stand squarely in their way.
The film works for the most part thanks to Joe Walker’s crafty editing. It creates a lot of smoke and mirrors to distract moviegoers from shortcomings in the script co-written by Daniel Hardy and Mr. Wyatt, such as gaping plot holes and expository back stories not fleshed out. They have given the cast so little to work with, that even a seasoned pro like Mr. Cox at times has that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. The biggest problem, though, occurs when Messrs. Hardy and Wyatt try their hands at a climactic twist designed to be clever, but which comes off as totally contrived. Given the way things are in Hollywood though, Mr. Wyatt has quite a bright future ahead.
© Copyright 2009 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.