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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
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  • Theatrical trailer

The Escape Artist

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . PG . PAL


Weíre all trying to escape from something in life. Escape from a mundane existence, from a nagging wife or a lazy husband, from an annoying boss, from bills, from responsibilities, from having to sweep the floors, from looking strangers in the face, from the weight of expectation, from what society expects of us, the list goes on...

Me? Iím still trying to escape the review backlog Iíve got. As a wise person once told me, ďItís better to do today what should have been done yesterday otherwise tomorrow will be a pain in the arse because thatís where Iím going to kick you if you donít stop slacking off, okay?Ē

Danny Masters (Griffin OíNeal) is trying to escape from out of the self-imposed shadow of his late father, an escape artist second only to Houdini. The circumstances surrounding his death are hazy, all he knows is that he was shot dead trying to escape from prison while serving time for petty crime. Danny doesnít really have anyone wise to give him the kind of advice I received in my youth, so heís his own person, very determined, a bit smart-alecky, and looking a little like a young Ritchie Cunningham from Happy Days.

Danny lives with his grandmother, and here he makes his first decision to escape from that stage of his life and hook up with his Uncle and Aunt, a couple with a magic act who make a living of sorts playing clubs.

With dreams of being as big as his father one day, and a worldly attitude and confidence far beyond his years, it isnít too long before Danny has run afoul of the law and crossed paths with less desirable types, namely Stu (Raul Julia), the slightly unhinged son of the local crooked mayor, and who mirrors Dannyís life in a fashion.

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"Oh yeah? I'll find where you keep your magic rabbit eventually, boyo!"

The performance of Griffin OíNeal, who carries the bulk of the story, is the driving force of the film. His performance is nothing short of captivating. Haley Joel Osment would do well to take a leaf out his book and drop his cloying wide-eyed doe act. Raul Julia appeals with a mix of offbeat and slightly sadistic humour and a disposition which makes you never quite sure whether to love or loathe his character, but guarantees your attention. None of the other actors/characters are given enough time to flesh out their existence sufficiently to consider them more than just filler, regardless of the part they play in the proceedings.

But that aspect, and other flaws, are never a problem as the slow build up of the story and the interaction between Danny and Stu transcend the issues that would bury many other films, making this a surprisingly entertaining experience.


Clarity is this filmís strongest point, even if the actual level of filmed detail isnít up there with the best, but still sitting comfortably within its age group. It has an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is suitable attired with 16:9 enhancement. Great passages pass by unremarked upon, but there were one or two small moments where I was quietly pleased with the happy confluence of smooth picture, good depth in shadows and a solid rendering of the image. The level of visible grain is flitting, and even at its strongest itís not intrusive, and in most cases perfectly a part of the picture.


A Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix might seem like a let down, but consider that the film utilises more dialogue than anything else, and the atmosphere is rather restrained, so the clarity of the conversations is foremost and fine in all respects. What little effort at stereo imaging and surround use there is carries fairly effectively, though itís not something that youíll worry about too often. But then itís not something that you miss either, because the story is low-key, the audio follows suit but the result is still engaging anyway, ably piggybacking on the strength of the story.


A single theatrical trailer.


You can't ask for a better result than going in with little expectation other than losing yet another 90 minutes of your precious life, then coming out at the other end glad you spent the time with it. If you find yourself with some spare time on your hands and nothing on your shelf looks appealing, try this one for simple yet pleasantly engaging viewing.

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      And I quote...
    "A story-driven film not dependent on twists, nudity or sensationalism to capture your attention. "
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-525
    • TV:
          Philips 55PP8620
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale WH-2
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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