‘Escape from Pretoria.’

Since the Harry Potter franchise ended in 2011 Daniel Radcliffe has put the wizardry behind him in such movies as The Woman in Black, Now You See Me 2 and Greg McLean’s Jungle.

In the Adelaide-shot thriller Escape from Pretoria, which opened in the US and UK last weekend, he plays South African freedom fighter and political prisoner Tim Jenkin.

Jenkin and fellow activist Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) were branded terrorists for their involvement in covert anti-apartheid operations for the African National Congress in 1978.

Incarcerated in Pretoria’s maximum security prison, Jenkin, Lee and fellow inmate Leonard Fontaine (Mark Leonard Winter) escaped after months of meticulous surveillance and ingenuity before authorities were able to strengthen the prison’s security defences.

Ian Hart plays co-conspirator Denis Goldberg with Miss Fisher’s Nathan Page as Mongo, the hot-headed leader of the prison guards.

Momentum Pictures launched the UK-Australian co-production directed by Englishman Francis Annan in his feature debut on limited screens and on-demand ($US5.99 to rent, $US14.99 to buy) in the US and did not report B.O. figures.

Signature Entertainment released the thriller produced by Arclight Films’ Gary Hamilton and Michelle Krumm, BeaglePug’s David Barron and Footprint Films’ Mark Blaney and Jackie Sheppard on 11 screens in the UK, bringing in an estimated $A13,000.

The reviews in the UK and US lauded Radcliffe’s performance although some quibbled with the film’s script and lack of intensity.

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey responded to an intricate and studiously plotted film and said: “Radcliffe is subdued but committed, lending an ideal everyman quality to Jenkin. It’s a real display of the actor’s talent.”

The Wrap’s Simon Abrams declared: “Almost everything that’s enjoyable about Escape From Pretoria is a variation on stuff you’ve probably seen in superior prison movies, though Radcliffe’s haunted performance is exceptionally compelling.”

Abrams was less impressed with the supporting characters, noting that makes it hard to care whenever Radcliffe is off screen, adding: “His die hard fans (and any prison break movie buffs) might find what they’re looking for here, but there’s not necessarily enough going down on-screen for anyone else.”

For Variety’s Guy Lodge, Annan’s film works effectively as a straight-up jailbreak thriller, well-oiled in greasy B-movie tradition, but falls short on historical import.

“The casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Jenkin lends it some marquee appeal, but this still feels like efficient VOD fodder,” Lodge said.

“Meanwhile, it may struggle to find much of a fan base in its own country of setting, where audiences might reasonably wonder why at least one South African actor couldn’t have been cast in a principal role.”

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment acquired the Australian rights. Arclight Films sold the film to more than a dozen territories including Japan (AT Entertainment), Latin America (Turner), Germany (KSM), Italy (Minerva), Spain (Inopia Films), Benelux and Scandinavia.

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  1. Watching was a real gas ! Splendid acting which was extremely realistic ! In this time of evil being given a pass to see it defeated in this real life drama is reassuring and inspiring ! Well done !

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