Escape Plan is fun pairing of action icons
Escape Plan features two action hero workhorses from the 1980s — Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone — but the film’s decrepit script is the only throwaway relic in this otherwise entertaining action thriller.
For those weaned on a steady diet of their films, it’s hard to believe that at Stallone, 67, and Schwarzenegger, 66, the two are now in the cinema senior circuit. They’ve got their live-action video game-like franchise, The Expendables, to indulge their 80s heyday, so Escape Plan marks a welcome next chapter in their action careers. Instead of simply busting heads as invincible supermen, their characters have to use their heads and outsmart their opponents.
Still, audiences can look forward to some fan-pleasing moments. The pair remains as charismatic as ever with an easygoing chemistry befitting an action buddy movie with no second fiddle.
Stallone has a few Rocky-esque fistfights and Schwarzenegger gets to carry big guns a la Commando [Blu-ray] to prove they’re not ready for the old folks’ home just yet.
Stallone (Bullet to the Head) plays Ray Breslin, a structural security expert who can find a weak point in any prison. With assistance from his crack team, Abigail (Amy Ryan) and computer whiz, Hush (50 Cent), there’s no structure that can hold him. Ray’s partner, Lester (Vincent D’Onofrio), has a lead on a job with a too good to be true mammoth payday. All Ray has to do is make sure an off the books state-of-the-art prison, nicknamed ‘The Tomb,’ is truly inescapable.
Predictably, things immediately go wrong. Ray gets on the bad side of the emotionally detached warden, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel playing a calm and collected villain) and his top henchman, Drake (Vinnie Jones) — the one guard who doesn’t hide his face behind a sinister obsidian mask.
Clad in head to toe armor, the guards definitely look intimidating, but it’s nothing compared to The Tomb itself with its clear cells, isolation chambers and ever-present surveillance cameras.
Ray is befriended by Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger, The Last Stand), a long-time prisoner who thinks Ray may be able to help him finally break out.
Director Mikael Håfström takes a simplistic approach to the action, wisely saving the more credibility-stretching moments until the finale. One gimmick he uses just enough is Ray’s ‘blueprint vision,’ where Ray breaks down possible escape routes as if looking at blueprints.
Aided by his horror/thriller background on films including 1408 and The Rite, Håfström has a good feel of building tension Thankfully, he doesn’t get overly cute with the more physical scenes. Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s fights are more akin to tanks smashing through walls so there’s no mistaking them for ninjas.
Miles Chapman (the direct to video Road House 2: Last Call) handled the initial draft and Jason Keller (Mirror Mirror) did script revisions. A third time may have been the charm as the second attempt is still a bit underwritten.
The film features dialogue that would be more commonly found in mid 80s action films and a plot that’s more convoluted than necessary.
Some of the lines sound like campaign commercials, ‘Ray Breslin is able to break out of any prison designed by man,’ while others such as ‘This is a shadow world,’ just sound lame. Too often there are long pauses in the dialogue as if to give the audience time to recover from an especially witty line. Sadly, the script is far more competent at making you roll your eyes than laugh.
The film’s second act, with a heavier action emphasis and less frustrating dialogue, is far more engaging.
But let’s face it. You’re not really going to see an action movie featuring Stallone and Schwarzenegger for its plot or dialogue, are you? Exactly. Escape Plan delivers everything you’d expect — no more, no less — and sometimes, including cases like this one, sticking to the plan is all you’ll need to enjoy it.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Photo Credit: Alan Markfield/Summit Entertainment