ESCAPE PLAN – The Review
The first time Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up was a couple of years ago for THE EXPENDABLES (and its sequel). It wasn’t a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was still a lot of fun, the kind of all-out, over the top action movie they just don’t make anymore, which is probably a good thing. The two marble-mouthed ‘80s action studs join forces again for ESCAPE PLAN and if you’re expecting more loud, brainless escapism, you may be surprised. This prison break flick has a linear plot that goes from point A to point B as opposed to a series of action set pieces’, favoring the logistics of the caper over explosions and mayhem and the result is a surprising example of first-rate story telling. I’m not kidding! There is plenty of carnage in ESCAPE PLAN but it is much smarter than you’d expect for a film starring two old men who spend way too much time at the gym.
ESCAPE PLAN stars Stallone as Ray Breslin, a security expert who literarily wrote the book on compromising maximum-security prisons. He’s analyzed nearly every high security slammer, spending much of his career being incarcerated in, and busting out, of them. By exposing their weaknesses, he secures fat contracts for the security firm he runs with his partners played Vincent Donofrio, Amy Ryan, and Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson. Recruited by a mysterious CIA op (Caitriona Balfe) to test a top-secret prison known as ‘The Tomb’ (the film’s original title), Breslin takes a new identity and is shipped off to parts unknown. Before he can get there, he’s knocked unconscious, the tracking device he needs so his partners know where he is is removed, and he awakens in an all-glass beehive-style cell, one of hundreds watched over by guards wearing ninja masks. He has no idea where he is and soon finds himself in a punitive ‘hot box’ of scorching heat lamps. Breslin joins with Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), a man of shady motives, to find to find out where the heck they are, how they can get out, and which one of Breslin’s partners set him up. The pair methodically begins testing the facility’s layout and searching for defects, but when they discover that the prison is located in the middle of the ocean, they’re forced to change tactics.
Stallone, looking more relaxed and less leathery than he did in BULLET IN THE HEAD earlier this year, has the larger role and Breslin is perhaps the smartest character he’s ever played (okay – that’s not saying much). He can not only build Macyver-like gizmos to measure geographic coordinates, but the guy seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. Stallone has never seemed the type of actor to think beyond his fists, but he pulls it off and shows an articulateness here that makes the character work. Arnold is clearly having the most fun, gets the best lines (“Have a lovely day, Asshole” had the crowd cheering but my favorite was “You fight like a vegetarian!”), and even has a terrific scene where he screams in his native German. Jim Caviezel as the sadistic warden plays things fairly straight while Vinnie Jones is underused as his enforcer. Sam Neil as a confused doctor seems to have wandered over from another film. ESCAPE PLAN drags a bit during the middle stretch – at 2 hours, it could have clocked in a few minutes shorter, but the development and execution of the escape plan is straightforward and, considering this is a Stallone/ Schwarzenegger action film, relatively believable. Of course, it all ends with a shoot-out and a couple of explosions but it doesn’t climax with the 45 minutes of smashing mayhem I was braced for. ESCAPE PLAN doesn’t rewrite the action movie, but no one will feel disappointed either. Even if it’s the promise of overwrought violence that lures people into theaters, I suspect it will be the quieter scenes – the ones with a pretense of wit – that keep them satisfied. ESCAPE PLAN is big and it’s loud but it’s not nearly as dumb as you’d anticipate and it stars people you love saying funny things and doing badass stuff. If you’re looking for something less coherent, THE EXPENDABLES 3 is in the can, but until then, I do recommend ESCAPE PLAN.
4 of 5 Stars