Vern tracks down Gollum & King Kong in THE ESCAPIST!!!

Hey folks, Harry here – Vern brings up a very important issue… Lee Marvin should have to fight Andy Serkis in a weird revenge film using the latest in time travel technology. What? Oh – read the review – you’ll get why that’s cool. Or maybe you intuitively get it. You rule. Here’s Vern…

Howdy boys

If you’re jonesin for a big scoop, you might want to put your pants back on, because this ain’t it. But I did find a pretty good revenge movie I never heard of that’s going straight to video this January here in the states. The box for the screener calls it an “Action-Packed Brand-new Feature Film!” which is advertising slang for “British movie from 2001.” Seems like it must’ve been released in the cinemas they got over there, but I’m not sure when since it doesn’t seem to be on video yet there either.

The movie is called THE ESCAPIST, but it’s not a remake of THE ESCAPIST from 1983 which stars actual escape artist Bill Shirk as himself. You would think you couldn’t go wrong with a movie where they do nothing but find excuses to hang the main character upside down in a straight jacket and put snakes on him and crap, but it doesn’t really work out.

In this THE ESCAPIST the guy is not an escape artist trying to promote a radio station, he is some kind of pilot with a death wish getting revenge, like in the movie DEATH WISH, only he’s a pilot. The pilot in question is Jonny Lee Miller (some guy from HACKERS and TRAINSPOTTING) and the recipient of the revenge is Andy Serkis (he is the guy who plays Gollum, if there’s any LORD OF THE RINGS fans out there you will recognize him I bet).

The EscapistSee Jonny is happily married with a pregnant wife, and in a movie like this that’s askin for it. So some weirdo (Gollum) breaks into the house, one thing leads to another and the wife gets killed (spoiler). But the baby survives (spoiler 2). But Gollum just laughs when he’s caught and sentenced to 20 years and this rubs Jonny the wrong way for some reason. So he ignores the baby, tells his sister-in-law to keep it and embarks on a journey. A journey not unlike the one in LORD OF THE RINGS, except instead of going with Gollum to throw a ring in a magic volcano, he has to go TO Gollum to try to shank him in prison. And there’s no giant eagle. I think there’s a talking tree though. No, I take that back, there’s not a talking tree. I guess actually it IS a journey unlike the one in LORD OF THE RINGS.

By the way this movie has a connection to LORD OF THE RINGS, that’s your cue to bring up STAR WARS again in the talkbacks. You know, “George Lucas WISHES he could make a movie like LORD OF THE RINGS, blah blah blah ewoks shot first, etc.” There is a very clear line from point A to point B there, but I guess I don’t have to map it out for you, you freakos obviously know what you’re doing when it comes to still bringing up STAR WARS.

Anyway we’ve seen people go to prison on purpose in other things (the tv show PRISON BREAK and of course HALF PAST DEAD) but this is still a pretty unique revenge concept. He’s determined to get into this Alcatraz type high security prison but he’s new to this crime shit. What he does is first fake his death (always good) then sledge hammer a police car (way to go bud). This gets him into jail. Then he starts beating up prison guards and causing a ruckus, which gets him into prison. But not the right prison. So then he attempts a series of escapes hoping this will get him transferred.

They could maybe get more elaborate with the escapes but it’s still a fun section of the movie, because he gets to try out all these different techniques but with the advantage of not giving a shit if he gets caught. Most people they gotta get it right the first time otherwise they’re fucked. This guy gets the rare opportunity to experiment, find out what he’s good at, dabble in different areas of escape. If he makes it he’ll probaly just turn around and come back and try a different way. Good practice in case he needs to actually escape later, or in case he wants to do a promotion for a radio station where he’s hanging upside down in a straight jacket and they throw snakes on him.

Of course he eventually gets where he wants to and then there’s a little twist and some complications are added to add extra tension. The baby may or may not end up being endangered, it is hard to say. It’s always possible that the baby is an extraneous detail that will not become a plot point in the movie later. Who knows.

Actually the sister-in-law character does bring an extra emotional angle to the picture. She makes you feel a little guilty about enjoying the revenge because it seems to upset her. Andy Serkis makes a pretty good villain, believably evil and not too over the top like you might expect a guy who plays gollums and apes to be. (This was apparently his last pre-LORD OF THE RINGS movie.) It’s well put together but the attraction here is not the actors, or the direction, or even really the script per se. It’s the story, the basic concept. To me there’s something pure and beautiful about a simple concept like this. Guy will stop at nothing to get his money back. Guy will stop at nothing to kill other guy. Not too many subplots or side characters. A movie that just stares straight ahead and keeps walking.

But one thing that helps to fill out a simple movie like this is a bad motherfucker. Jonny Lee Miller does a good job, but if there’s one thing my Badass Cinema studies have taught me its what a strong Badass presence can add to a movie like this. Jonny looks like a regular guy which I’m sure is why they cast him, but almost all of the screen time is devoted to a single-minded quest to kill a motherfucker. And single-minded quests to kill a motherfucker always benefit from a Badass presence. I kept wondering what this would’ve been like if it was Thomas Jane (not because of PUNISHER, even though I kind of liked that one, but because of STANDER). Or maybe Eric Bana (I never seen TROY but I will never forget CHOPPER). Somebody tougher.

But then of course all the boat-riding out to an island prison reminded me of POINT BLANK and Lee Marvin. As it is this is a pretty good movie, but if the exact same thing had been made back in the day with Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson, it might be a classic.

I guess we’ll never know, not unless time travel is invented, and even then only if the owners of the time machine have a weird sense of priorities for what to travel back in time and change. Still, this is a worthwhile low key revenge thriller and I’m surprised it’s been sitting on a shelf for four years. I’m glad somebody accidentally knocked it off when they were reaching for something else on the shelf and then maybe tripped over it or something and then said “hey what’s this?” and mistook it for an Action-Packed Brand-new Feature Film.

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/21883

View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 7:17 a.m. CST


    by mikael


  • Nov. 21, 2005, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Why does he cry, Smeagol?

    by cyanide christ

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 7:35 a.m. CST

    by addz

    this sounds promising..at least from a purely conceptual point of view…stopped reading from about 1/2 way..this might be something i wouldn’t mind watching

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 7:48 a.m. CST

    George Luca$ is teh hack

    by seppukudkurosawa

    Nice review Vern, but hell that goes without saying. This reminds me of your badass film of the year awards from way back when. Where would The Escapist qualify (though it probably doesn’t even count as being from 2005)? Would it win the “Special Steven Seagal Award for Movie Made for Steven Seagal but Without Steven Seagal Appearing in it Because Steven Seagal Was Doing Something Else Involving Saving Pandas Steven Seagal Did Not Pay Me to Use Steven Seagal’s Name This Many Times by the way”…because that would be one hell of an award.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:01 a.m. CST

    Wow, that was some nonsensical, disjointed shit.

    by Citizen Arcane

    Try to use lube next time you sideways ram a dig on Star Wars in an unrelated story, I feel violated. What man will want me now?

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:10 a.m. CST

    I’ve seen this film…

    by benito

    It’s one of those films where as you watch it you begin to realise that for what it is – it’s actually pretty damn decent. The conceit of an ordinary guy trying to work his way through the jail system by commiting more and more crimes is pretty good. And, as with all things, the execution goes a long way. It’s a grimy, stylish little british film that ends up being a lot better than it probably has any right to be. Like with that film Teenwolf. I mean, when they pitched that movie and talked about the bit where a werewolf breakdances in the school hall I know that everyone at the table saw dollar signs. But the fact that I’m still talking about that scene today is a testament to just how well it all came together on the day, you know?

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:19 a.m. CST


    by the_man_from_Rio

    so he

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:38 a.m. CST

    Why am i getting a review of a movie thats 3 years old and in th

    by GOODIE

    Aint it cool….no it aint it appears.

    Jesus this site was once the best but that was when it was new and fresh. Now it just plays catch up all the time. Oh well, now i have that off my chest can i also say,

    WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL WITH ANDY SERKIS…he sucks he is no good apart from his silly voice.

    Long live Harrison Ford….Firewall will rock!!!!

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:38 a.m. CST

    Maybe it’s just about a guy who loves teh prison sex

    by I Dunno

    He can’t leave his cellmates’ behind.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:42 a.m. CST

    Harry, what do you mean with: “you rule”? we, the readers rule?

    by Windowlicker74

    Oh, and Johnny Lee Miller is not “some guy”. And whats with all the LOTR references? Just because Serkis is in this movie? jeez. (newsflash: Andy Serkis is an actor who acts in other movies as well). nonsensical, disjointed shit indeed..

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:47 a.m. CST

    Surely the man would give up after his first attempt beating. Mo

    by BendersShinyAss

    Sound interesting though. Or maybe it’s just Vern and his nack to keep from skipping paragraphs

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:58 a.m. CST

    “This site doesn’t have cool news anymore!”

    by drjohnnyfever

    And yet… you keep coming back and posting in the talkbacks. You obviously have an obsession for things that were once bool but aren’t cool anymore. I, however, keep coming back for reviews like this. Yes, it’s a review for an old movie, but Vern wrote it and that, for me, makes it required reading.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 9:09 a.m. CST

    No Mention of King Kong in the Text

    by MinasTirithII

    Though it’s mentioned in the title, hacks. LOTR >>>> sw.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 9:31 a.m. CST

    This is a fine flick

    by dewijnboer

    But it is four years old. And has been available on DVD for quite some time now, at least here in Europe. And, oh yeah, Star Warts sucks. Well, somebody has to say it ;-)

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 9:38 a.m. CST

    This movie came out 4 years ago in Australia…

    by LeiaDown&FuckHer

    And straight to video/dvd at that. It’s watchable enough, Miller & Serkis do solid work, but it’s certainly far from memorable or being anything particularly notable. A passable timewaster, that’s it. You want to see a really good Brit-flick with Serkis in it, check out Shiner, now that’s a damn good film, and Serkis gives one of his best performances (that I’ve seen) in it, with a top notch (non phoned in) lead performance by Michael Caine to boot. Good stuff. Deathwatch wasn’t bad either, though Serkis was a bit over the top. And speaking of LOTR stars and brit-flicks, Bernard Hill gives great performances in both The Criminal and Going Off Big Time, which are both flicks worth checking out too.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 9:49 a.m. CST

    Um, this movie is total shit…

    by ODM

    …and came out ten years ago. WHO CARES ABOUT THIS CRAP?!

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 10:39 a.m. CST

    It came out two years ago in Germany

    by DerLanghaarige

    Or three. can’t remember. Also direct-to-video. Never watched it. :(

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 11:30 a.m. CST

    great movie that has andy serkis in it:

    by Windowlicker74

    24 hour party people. crazy film about joy divsion, drugs and partying in madchester. andy plays fucked-up producer Martin Hannett. better watch this than that escapist shit.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 12:33 p.m. CST


    by McBane

    It’s called aintitcool not aintitcurrent. The editor’s post whatever they think is cool. Or has that escaped you attention? As much as Vern has pissed me off recently, he still does good reviews. I grudgingly salute you sir.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 12:44 p.m. CST

    Serkis Breakthrough Role

    by CrimsonGhost

    that’s right, it was playing Jennifer Garner’s limp wristed boss in “13 Going on 30”. What a performance. My only question after watching it was, who did the CGI work to make him look to queer and fey?

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Give the guy a little more credit…

    by RaylanGivens

    “Jonny Lee Miller (some guy from HACKERS and TRAINSPOTTING) “… he wasn’t “some guy” in TRAINSPOTTING, he was fucking Sick Boy. And he was also one of the lucky ones that got to stick it to Angelina Jolie before Billy Bob ran his tainted hoo-hoo dilly in her cha cha.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 2:43 p.m. CST

    to McBane

    by Vern

    Was it that thing I said about South Park? Whatever it is I apologize, even though I was probaly right. Anyway thanks bud, glad you liked the review.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 2:56 p.m. CST

    If it’s not the same Escapist from Chabon’s book Kavalie

    by Lenny Nero


  • Nov. 21, 2005, 3:08 p.m. CST

    Eh Mcbane! One question!

    by GOODIE

    When is reveiwing a Shitty direct to video “Cool” especially since it has been out for about 3 years and nobody gives a crap. Oh hey it has Andy Serkis in it so it must be cool he was in LOTHR.

    I look forward to Verns review of Leprechaun. Its been out for years, is shit and stars Warwick Davis, he was in Star Wars movies so it must be a prime candidate for Aint it Cool “scoops”

    Sarcasam…I love it.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 3:16 p.m. CST

    Goodie- another (increasingly rare) case of someone who doesn&#3

    by seppukudkurosawa

    If you’ve read pretty much every review he’s written like me, you might even end up preferring his reviews of shitty/obscure/already released movies to the more obvious sources. I mean if you want to read about King Kong, Narnia or any other big budget blockbuster, then just put the name in a search engine and you can read articles on those movies until you grow a family of hernias in your arse, but if you’re more interested in the quality of what you’re reading than what it’s about, then Vern is unbeaten. At least as far as internet journalism is concerned anyway. Did you read through the review thinking, “Grr…I don’t give a shit about that Gollum dude, who in fuck’s name is Johnny Lee Miller? This is OLD and boring?” and forgot to relax and be entertained?

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 3:28 p.m. CST

    Lenny Nero, I agree.

    by Barry Egan

    Isn’t a sure to be horrid film version of Kavalier and Clay supposedly in the works?

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 6:09 p.m. CST

    I can’t wait for Vern’s review of…

    by JonQuixote

    BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Keep on Truckin’, Vern.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:14 p.m. CST

    This is news because…

    by MCVamp

    WHEN VERN REVIEWS, IT IS AN EVENT. Consistently the most entertaining reviewer on AICN, Vern’s take on ANY genre is worth a glance, whether it’s a spanking new release or a Barry Bostwick box set he found stuck to the bottom of the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. This site isn’t just about finding out what color King Kong’s balls will be under the furry tuft of God’s natural ape loincloth, it is also about entertaining based on its own merits. Vern entertains. Vern’s reviews belong here.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:35 p.m. CST

    some comments

    by Vern

    Well shit I didn’t know this was gonna be the most controversial review of the day. If anybody is wondering why I reviewed it, I would suggest READING THE GOD DAMN REVIEW where I first explain that it is an old movie and then why I thought I should review it. This is kind of a catch-22 because obviously you read the review in order to know what it was, and yet at the same time you did not read the review because you are not familiar with the content of the review. I guess maybe that’s some kind of higher form of reading without reading, so hats off to you fuckos. Anyway in answer to your question, yes, I will review LEPRECHAUN for you, I haven’t seen it yet though so give me some time. thanks for the tip bud. your friend Vern.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 11:42 p.m. CST

    This movie was released in 1903!!!

    by Alonzo Mosely

    I mean how is this cool. It was a silent about a guy with a big moustache who twirls it and ties, a frankly ugly and flat-chested, blonde to some fake railroad tracks, while a guy with very shiny teeth runs around trying to save her. Also why mention LOTR, I mean don’t you people have any sense of history, Serkis was a regular on the kids show ‘the wibble wobble wankbags’ for years. How is any of this cool! I mean has there even been any mention of King Kong or the new Superman film? Not one talkback for that, and this is the 12th The Escapist Talkback. Also, I think Vern is really all of the other writers for this site combined. Apart from Herc, ’cause Vern lacks a feminine side… Your in disgust, Mrs. Brigadier Archibald Dragon McDougal, esq. (Deceased)…

  • Nov. 22, 2005, 3 a.m. CST

    It came out 14 years ago in Nova Scotia

    by Mike Nesmith

    Not really. I just didn’t want to be left out.

  • Nov. 22, 2005, 6:45 a.m. CST


    by ScaryJim

    Alot of Vern Virgins here today ! Grow a brain and get some sense of humour you Muppets. Another great review Vern ! :)

  • Nov. 22, 2005, 7:48 a.m. CST


    by IAmMrMonkey

    It was called something completely different and existed in the mind of a single celled organism but was unfortunately never filmed. HOW LATE IS THIS NEWS?

    Okay, I just wanted to join in with all the others and say it came out ages ago. Sorry.

  • Nov. 22, 2005, 10:22 a.m. CST

    It came from beneath the sea

    by Darth Bono Jr.


  • Nov. 22, 2005, 8:30 p.m. CST


    by vinceklortho

    Reese looks fookin hot with her 60’s hair. Oh, and the movie is great too. I applaud you for noticing her hair’s amazing performance in that film. But, will the Academy notice?

  • Nov. 23, 2005, 12:11 a.m. CST

    BendersShinyAss ..re:asswhupping

    by Wyrdy the Gerbil

    Somehow Vern missed point of why the films called The Escapist the whole reason for getting thrown into prison after prison was to try and escape from them(without suceeding)so he would be put into a higher catagory prison every time until he could finally get to Serkis, and not strictly speaking to get an asswhupping ..the films not bad but with its low production values was on a par with your typical ITV/BBC drama series

  • Nov. 23, 2005, 4:30 a.m. CST

    to Wyrdy

    by Vern

    Yeah, I noticed that. Why did you think I didn’t notice that? If you would like to know more things I noticed, read the review (above). thanks bud.

  • Nov. 23, 2005, 7:51 a.m. CST

    Ain’t It Cool News…

    by cyanide christ

    …is not just about upcoming releases, it is a site dedicated to shit that’s cool. Vern found a movie that seemed to slip between the cracks and decided to share his thoughts on it. You people need to lighten up. Know what I mean, Vern?

  • Nov. 25, 2005, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Kavalier &Klay movie ‘in development’…

    by Blabbermouse

    …according to IMDB. Their info says it will be directed by Stephen Daldry, written by Chabon himself & produced by Scott Rudin. Yeah, the headline on this item fooled me too.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 21st, 2005 at 8:06 am and is filed under AICN, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “Vern tracks down Gollum & King Kong in THE ESCAPIST!!!”

  1. I just clicked on this after watching a completely DIFFERENT British flick about prison called The Escapist. Only this one came out in 2008 and stars Brian Cox and some other good Brit actors. It’s pretty cool; basically what I expected it to be — a simple story told well, not too flashy but quietly solid as it goes about its business. You have any slots left open in your To-Do-List (which I’d imagine must be damned long cause of this kind of thing), you might wanna check this one out, Vern.

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