About 40 minutes into Escape Plan 2: Hades, it’s clear it really shouldn’t have been this hard to make a sequel for Escape Plan. The 2013 film wasn’t perfect, but relied on the novelty of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger teaming up outside of The Expendables. Hades has a fraction of the creativity, sidelines the main draw and is the equivalent of a cinematic prison sentence.
The film’s biggest issue is it suffers from a major case of bait and switch. For fans of the first film there’s certain expectations Stallone would play a prominent role even if Schwarzenegger is out. Dave Bautista (Hotel Artemis) might not be an action star in Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s league yet, but he’s a viable successor. The movie poster has them front and center, but they’re hardly in the film. Deceptive marketing is strong with this one. The film likely would have connected with Stallone and Bautista in the lead roles instead of in glorified cameo spots.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) has expanded his security business and hired new blood — Shu (Xiaoming Huang), Luke (Jesse Metcalfe), Kimbral (Wes Chatham), Abigail (Jamie King) and Jules (Lydia Hull). Shu is Ray’s favorite, but after a mission goes wrong, he steps away to learn how to be a better team player.
Shu’s cousin, Yusheng Ma (Chen Tang), has created technology that absolutely can’t fall into the wrong hands. Naturally, both Shu and Yusheng get nabbed by masked bad guys and thrown into the Zoo — a new inescapable off the grid prison. The man in charge, Gregor Faust (Titus Welliver), wants Yusheng’s tech.
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To force their compliance, he puts the cousins in fighting competitions until they give up the intel. Meanwhile, Ray and his crew, including returning Hush (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson) are frantically trying to find their missing teammate and avoid capture themselves.
On paper, that’s not a terrible premise. Miles Chapman, who co-wrote the first film with Jason Keller, has some good ideas that get squandered by abysmal execution. Director Steven C. Miller deserves a lot of the blame with choppy editing and poor transitions. Mikael Håfström at least brought a cool style to the first film. Miller has more of a blender style of direction hoping quick cuts and funky angles will replace a coherent experience.
Unlike the first film, Hades is being released direct to video and avoiding the box office run altogether. While the budget numbers weren’t released for either film, Hades looks like it was done on the cheap. Special effects like explosions and electrified flooring look awful.
Escape Plan earned a meager $25 million domestically, but was a surprising hit overseas with $112 million internationally. This largely explains the shift in locations and more international casting.
Huang, Metcalfe and Chatham are poor substitutes for Schwarzenegger. They’re more of the generic action hero blend and combined lack any of his charisma. It makes Bautista’s involvement in the film all the more puzzling. He’s the one performer capable of salvaging the film as has enough personality and swagger to make it work. Stallone takes the mentor role he adapted in Creed although to less impressive effect here.
Escape Plan 2: Hades plays out more like the passing of the torch instead of the franchise builder it should have been. If this is what the future of the franchise looks like, it doesn’t need another release even with good behavior.
Rating: 2 out of 10
Photo Credit: Lionsgate