COINCIDENCE ruins what could have been a great coming out pa
Chris Kennison | Jefferson City, Mo United States | 03/22/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Andy Serkis hits it out of the park.
The ESCAPIST was actually filmed BEFORE the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and King Kong, where he became Peter Jackson's secret weapon, bringing GOLLUM and KING KONG to life. In the ESCAPIST he plays Ricky Barnes, a ruthless, heartless, cold-blooded killer. And he plays it with unabashed anger and passion. He pours himself into this character, demonstrating his skill as an actor, and making the audience fear what is going on behind those searing eyes.
Jonny Lee Miller too does a great job portraying Denis, the man who's pregnant wife was senselessly gunned-down by Serkis' Ricky Barnes. He's no hero. He's just a man. He's not a student of fighting arts. He's just a man who's dieing inside from the madness of the death of his wife and demons from within or telling him to do whatever it takes to make sure that her death is avenged. No matter what the cost.
His baby survives the shooting and is being cared for by Christine, played by the beautiful Jodhi May, who is either a friend or his sister... not sure. But, rather than settle into life with his daughter and Christine (if she's not his sister, that is), he decides to fake his own death by crashing his plane, committing juvenille crimes in order to be incarcerated and then committing more and more acts in order to get moved into the same prison as Ricky Barnes. Which isn't easy, seeing as though Barnes is in jail for murder and Denis is in jail for bashing in a police car with a baseball bat. They don't put vandals in jail with murderers... so he's gotta work his way up.
Yet, the prison sequences in the ESCAPIST are astounding and top notch and highly realistic. Almost makes you think that Johnny Lee Miller actually DID get himself thrown in prison.
Aside from the acting and the production and the realism, the movie is knocked down a couple of pegs by being one of the most reliant on COINCIDENCE movies I've seen in recent years. Not to mention, reliant on the audience relating to the hero in the film, making such a BAD BAD decision... JAIL or DAUGHTER... hmmm? JAIL or DAUGHTER + JODHI MAY??
Coincidences... bad guys son rides on the same bus to the prison with Christine, remembers the last name of the guy who put his dad in prison, mentions it to his dad gets an escape plan rolling. Bad guys plans an elaborate prison escape with timer explosives and run out to the runway of a no-escape island under the impression that a plane would be there... and of course there is. Somehow... Denis manages to get himself transfered to this maximum security, alcatraz type prison, despite just being a common thug. I could go on and on.
The point is, this IS A GOOD MOVIE, and I'm glad I watched it, but the COINCIDENCES (which I hate more than anything), made the movie just average to me. But, more than anything, I couldn't forgive the main character Denis for making such a really bad decision in the first place.
I won't remember the movie in a few weeks, but I think I will remember ANDY SERKIS' performance. So, there you go."
An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 06/19/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What if you lost what you loved most, and legal justice wasn't enough revenge?
That's the question that spawns "The Escapist," a gritty, taut little thriller that gives a new spin to the revenge quest. No Hollywood-style love interests or high-octane chases -- just a trio of excellent actors, a solid premise, and musings on why revenge will never bring you satisfaction.
Denis (Jonny Lee Miller) has it all -- a gorgeous house, a plane, a wife he adores, and a baby on the way. But one night Ricky Barnes (Andy Serkis) breaks in, and murders Denis' wife. The baby narrowly survives, and Barnes is sent to a maximum-security prison on a remote island -- but Denis is still consumed with a need for revenge against the man who destroyed four people's lives.
So he fakes his suicide, puts a few dents in a cop car, and receives a brief sentence -- then escapes. With each escape he receives a stiffer sentence, is sent to a higher security facility, and is forced to create ever more daring escape plans. But as he approaches Ricky Barnes' prison, Denis finds himself trapped in Ricky's own plot to escape...
"The Escapist" is a welcome change from your average Hollywood thriller -- a little indie movie, with no explosions or gun battles, lots of nasty little prisons, and a main cast of only three people. It has a stripped-down, raw feeling that gives a big contrast to the polished direction.
Basically the movie tracks Denis' descent into hell, with the knowledge that no matter what happens, Denis won't have won because his wife will still be dead. Gillies MacKinnon takes us from idyllic seaside villas, grey seas and sanitary little jails to the savage side of civilization, where there's no hope and no escape. And MacKinnon knows how to surprise us with an ending that leaves you wondering what is next.
Miller gives an overall good performance as a man with nothing to lose, and only revenge to gain -- he gets over-the-top in some of the scenes, but he's brilliant when Denis is ice cold. Jodhi May gives a lovely performance as his traumatized sister-in-law, and Serkis is simply chilling as a grinning, soulless murderer with a sadistic streak as big as Panama. I swear, he's creepier than Gollum in this movie.
"The Escapist" is a revenge thriller stripped down to the bone, but it's far better than many such movies are -- especially since it never loses sight of the fact that revenge can't make you happy."
Ingenious revenge thriller
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 02/16/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Escapist is one of those films that has little going for it at first sight: a constantly underachieving director and a bland leading man in yet another of that seemingly endless post-Lock, Stock stream of British crime movies. That it didn't even get a theatrical release but went straight to cable TV and DVD lowers expectations even further. Johnny Lee Miller, the blandest of the Trainspotting cast, initially looks like a bad choice for leading man, his hopeless delivery of the opening voice-over monologue boding particularly ill. The awkward stylistic devices in first ten minutes as his nice middle class guy loses his pregnant wife to Andy Serkis' escaped psychopath don't do the film many favors either, although it does help get the exposition quickly out of the way. From then on it turns into a particularly ingenious revenge thriller, with Miller's initial blandness working in his favor as he becomes increasingly convincingly unpleasant.
Rather than go the Charles Bronson/Jodie Foster route and roam the streets with a gun in search of catharsis, Miller decides instead to go right to the heart of the problem and get sent to prison, where he soon finds himself on "The Magic Roundabout" as his constant escape attempts see his 7-day sentence grow into two years as he works his way up from minimum security to the vividly realized Hellish maximum security island prison where Serkis is serving a 20-year sentence. Naturally, things don't go according to plan...
There's enough novelty in the premise and plot twists to drive the film, with Gillies McKinnon keeping things at a lean 100 minutes and drawing out an excellent supporting performance from Gary Lewis as the hardened con who befriends but never fully trust Miller. Andy Serkis is channelling Keith Allen in a particularly bad mood and doing it with élan, though Jodhi May really doesn't get much to do as his sister-in-law but act as his conscience and another potential victim in a couple of scenes. It's not a world-beater by any means, just a pleasingly efficient little thriller that deserved more attention than it got and is well worth a look if it crosses your path. Just bear with it past those awkward opening scenes.