The Escapist

Film
3 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
The Escapist
CAN YOU DIG IT? Cox gathers his team.

Brian Cox makes a lot of sense as a prisoner. That’s not to say we’d like to see this esteemed Scottish actor, such a memorable tyrant in Adaptation, incarcerated. But onscreen, we kind of do: In The Escapist, the folds of Cox’s face contain guilt, lethargy, the toughness of a criminal gone to seed. His character, Frank Perry, is a lifer doing his sentence in a British prison increasingly overrun by younger, thuggish pervs. But when Frank learns by mail that his only daughter has become a health-threatened junkie, the walls can no longer contain him. “Have a wander,” Cox tartly demands of his cellmate, finally stirring with secret plans and a newfound energy. The bloom is beautiful.

The Escapist, meanwhile, gets ahead of itself, periodically flashing forward to the breakout itself, and the subterranean maneuverings of Frank’s crew, which includes hoodie-clad Lenny (Fiennes) and drug-dealing Viv (The Life Aquatic’s sunny strummer Seu Jorge). In these showy, nonchronological strands, the film gets tangled. To be sure, nothing suits cinema better than the clever presentation of illegal acts, from Rififi and A Man Escaped to Sexy Beast. Still, the script flaunts one thwart too many, including a head-slapping gotcha that barely makes sense. The film lacks an exit strategy. —Joshua Rothkopf

Opens Fri; Village East.

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