Weekly Mini-Review: The Escape Artist (1982)

The protagonist asks the editor of the local newspaper to issue a challenge.

Story: A young drifter uses his skills as a magician and escape artist to get along in life, and gets tangled up with a crime ring along the way.

Review: The Escape Artist is a neat little movie. It’s one of those quiet, little character pieces that tend to sneak under the radar unless you just happen come across it by accident. The ending isn’t completely satisfying, but that’s okay because it’s not really the kind of movie to wrap things up in a neat, little bundle. What I particularly enjoyed about this film was the ever-popular, but hard to pull off well, idea of someone with a particular talent (magic, in this case) using their knowledge, and a bit of cunning, to do something unrelated and interesting like busting up a crime ring, even if it wasn’t necessarily something the protagonist had originally set out to do.

The people involved in its production is an interesting aspect that was surprisingly pleasing as well. It was directed by Caleb Deschanel (who is usually a cinematographer, and also the father of the Deschanel sisters) and produced by Francis Ford Coppola (which really shows in a couple of scenes that carry a highly Godfather-like mise en scene). Griffin O’Neal, who is essentially never heard from again after this film makes an excellent capable yet grounded young boy-wonder protagonist. The only funny part is that I thought he was acting to mature for his age, but it turns out the actor was actually about eighteen years old – despite looking about twelve. Desi Arnez makes a good villain, and the movie is stuffed with old favorites like Jackie Coogan, Hal Williams, Huntz Hall, and Teri Garr.

Overall, it’s well worth watching.

Recommended for: fans of FX, MacGyver (for the concept).

Content Notes: (G)

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