STALLONE! SCHWARZENEGGER! Together in the movie “Escape Plan”! Remember the good ole days in the 80’s and the 90’s when the names of these two action superstars were bigger than the movie title in the promo posters? Producers back then tried their best to get these two action giants together in one film unsuccessfully. Well, they may not be in their younger days and some would even say that they are past their prime, but finally the two are starring in leading roles in 2013’s “Escape Plan”. Director Mikael Hafstrom (The Rite) knows just how to tingle that sense of nostalgia and to maximize the actors’ star power. “Escape Plan” is a film very familiar and yet there is just something about it that proved to be entertaining. Old or not, Stallone and Schwarzenegger is still better than the scrawny wannabe action heroes of today.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is the co-owner of a security company that specializes in testing the reliability of maximum security prisons. Breslin has become the world’s foremost authority on structural security and so, it is no surprise that he has been sought out to test the integrity of a new super-secret, high-tech facility called “The Tomb” that houses all the unwanted criminals on the planet; people governments would like to disappear. However, things aren’t all that appear to be, and Breslin ends up being imprisoned for real under a very mean Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel) who appears to have his own agenda. Breslin must hatch up an escape plan to break out of this supposed escape-proof prison. Teaming up with a man named Emil Rothmayer (Schwarzenegger), Breslin must use all of his skills to break out or end up incarcerated for the rest of his life.
Originally titled “The Tomb” and “Exit Plan”, “Escape Plan” is a pretty standard action thriller that does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to prison break out movies. The screenplay goes by the numbers, and really must of the plot devices were things we have seen before. It does end up quite predictable, but it does manage to serve up some new elements and devices that made it a little more interesting. What made it work is the fact that the film was structured to reveal its secrets at a small step at a time. Just who put Breslin into this prison? Why does Hobbs appear to be obsessed with Rothmayer? Is there a bigger agenda at play? Well, the script did not intend to surprise with the way it presents its core plot, but it does manage to create a flow of developments that proved to be entertaining.
Prison movies often rely on logic, a sense of deductive reasoning and just how things will fit together in its grand scheme. This is what made “Escape Plan” quite interesting, as Breslin observes, directs and schemes, the film takes the viewer on a ride, and the viewer becomes privy to the makings of the plan. Much of the exchanges in the film occur between Breslin and Rothmayer, the dialogue and interactions develops the core plot efficiently with a mixture of clever wit, light humor and logical explanations. I do have to say that my problem with prison movies is that it usually becomes a little too easy when it comes to hatching a plan; that none of the guards seem to notice. While the film does have some lingering plot holes and missteps, the chemistry and group dynamics between the main characters proved immersive enough to sustain my interest.
The core plot was simple and certainly, several elements were standard. But the key to the film’s success was the way it sold the characters. Breslin was a character who may not be multi-dimensional, but he was developed well in the screenplay. The film also created good character dynamics with Hobbs (Caviezel) as he had something that he thought would help him against Breslin. It is all about staying a step ahead, and when in the end the most effective plan may be the simplest. Stallone and Schwarzenegger connected admirably as they channeled their star power. Yes, this may be more of a Stallone flick, but the two were co-dependent with each other. With out one or the other, the film may have ended up a little duller than it proved to be. I did like the supporting cast led by Amy Ryan, Sam Neil and Curtis “50 Cent” Jones as they gave the movie some more added personality.
Now, while the film does have action, it is not a film that is action-oriented. It is driven by the characters of Breslin and Rothmayer as the viewer sees their plan unfold and this high-tech structure becomes a character itself in the movie. I did like the atmosphere and the set designs. I did feel that it was a real prison with corners and places that no one was supposed to know. The direction proved pretty competent in the action scenes and practiced a sense of restraint. It was a little cartoonish on occasion but it was more grounded in reality. There were times that I laughed silly as Schwarzenegger came out with dry wit and banter that aided in driving the film’s entertainment value.
“Escape Plan” is an escapist-popcorn film. While not exactly refined in plotting and honestly there were things that could’ve been executed better, it sure was entertaining. Some areas of the plot were a little too convenient and some elements were left unexplored. Still, the film never lost its forward momentum and I found it rather enjoyable. It was wrapped up really well and sums up the important parts quite convincingly. Heck, I guess with the shortage of credible action heroes these days, it was nice to see these two former action mega-stars still kicking it. “Escape Plan” is nothing special but it is really fun to watch especially if you love these two guys. Light Recommendation for action fans and a Rental for Everybody else. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
The Expendables films gave us a team up that long time action fans have wanted to see for a long time, Sly and Arnie team up to fight the bad guys. Brief as those moments are, we did get it. Escape Plan is the real deal though-Sly and Arnold co-starring for a majority of the piece to win the day. The sum of Expendales parts is still greater then this movies whole however. Sly stars as an expert at breaking out of prisons for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, … more