Movie Reviews

Escape Plan

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Breslin
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Rottmayer
Jim Caviezel as Hobbes
Faran Tahir as Javed
Amy Ryan as Abigail
Sam Neill as Dr. Kyrie
Vincent D'Onofrio as Lester Clark
Vinnie Jones as Drake
Matt Gerald as Roag
Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson as Hush
Caitriona Balfe as Jessica Miller
David Joseph Martinez as Captain Newal Beradah
Alec Rayme as Pilot
Christian Stokes as Babcock
Graham Beckel as Brims

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Summary:
"Escape Plan" features fun performances by Stallone and Schwarzenegger as well as an excellent supporting cast, but it also features expected unrealism and pacing issues that fans of the leads won't care about anyway.

Story:
Ray Breslin is a security specialist who literally wrote the book on designing maximum security prisons. His company specializes in exposing weaknesses in supposedly inescapable facilities. Breslin goes in undercover as a prisoner, observes how the prison operates, and proceeds to break out in seemingly Houdini-like fashion.

When a mysterious woman from the CIA asks Breslin's company to test security at a top secret prison called "The Tomb," there are several warning signs that not everything may be as it seems. Ray takes the job anyway, but as soon as he goes into the prison, he discovers that he has been set up. Breslin finds himself cut off from his support staff, locked up at an unknown location, and facing a menacing warden who is determined to break him.

Breslin starts forming a plan to escape, but he's going to have to get a little help from a fellow prisoner by the name of Rottmayer if he has any hope of succeeding.

"Escape Plan" is rated R for violence and language throughout.

What Worked:
If you're going into a movie headlined by Stallone and Schwarzenegger, you pretty much know what you're going to get. You expect tough guy action, some gunfights, cheesy one-liners, and a plot that's main purpose is to string some action scenes together. "Escape Plan" delivers all of that, but with varying degrees of success.

Movies that feature over-the-hill '80s action stars can be a bit of a mixed bag. They're either a fun return to form for the actor or a real embarrassment as they ineffectively try to recapture their youth. Fortunately for Stallone and Schwarzenegger, neither one of them embarrass themselves in "Escape Plan." They are both showing their mileage with a few more wrinkles, a few more gray hairs, and a few more pounds, but that suits their characters. The unfortunate down side is that the action and stunts feel toned down from what we're used to seeing. Still, it's forgivable. And when Schwarzenegger eventually grabs an enormous machine gun and starts mowing people down, it's a real crowd pleaser because that's what audiences went into "Escape Plan" wanting to see.

This film definitely belongs to Stallone. The story centers on him despite the double billing. He carries the film well since Breslin is likable, intelligent and tough. In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't even appear until nearly 40 minutes into the film. But when he does appear, he provides a lot of comic relief that is very welcome. This turns out to be one of Schwarzenegger's better roles as we see him play tough, funny, crazy, and paternal all in one story. We even get to see him do insane religious rants in Austrian which is a treat.

Stallone also manages to surround himself with an impressive supporting cast that would elevate any film they would be in even if it wasn't a Stallone/Schwarzenegger movie. Jim Caviezel plays Hobbes, the villainous warden of "The Tomb." He's such a menacing presence it's amazing he hasn't played a villain more often. Vinnie Jones plays the henchman yet again and it's a career that has served him well. He feels like he could go toe-to-toe with Stallone. Sam Neill plays Dr. Kyrie in a small yet critical role. Amy Ryan also joins the cast as Abigail, Breslin's fellow co-worker at the security firm. She matches wits with Breslin but is unfortunately in the movie too little. Vincent D'Onofrio also appears as Lester Clark, Breslin's partner in the security firm. You can tell he's having fun with the role though it is rather brief. Faran Tahir plays the token Muslim character as Javed. Seeing him play the noble Islamic drug dealer feels a bit weird, especially when he faces off with a man who is known for playing Jesus, but he does it well.

While most of the movie feels very much by-the-book, there is one clever twist in regards to the secret prison. It's a fun revelation and one that helps elevate the film, but make sure it's not spoiled for you before seeing the movie.

What Didn't Work:
It shouldn't be a big surprise that "Escape Plan" does have some problems. First of all, the movie relies on us believing that Breslin is an amazing escape artist. While Stallone does come across as competent enough to pull off the escapes, when they reveal how he did them it doesn't seem credible. The escapes rely too much on guards conveniently looking away, unrealistically bad design of the cells, and other things that wouldn't happen in the real world. I know it's stupid to call this movie on realism, but it's also stupid to have us believe there are vents large enough for a man to crawl through in maximum security prisons. That would seem to be Prison Design Rule #1 – "No vents people can crawl through."

The pacing of "Escape Plan" is also a bit off. The film is two hours long which is about 30 minutes longer than necessary. And in the middle, there is a long lull in moving the characters and plot along. You just start to want them to hurry up and get to the inevitable conclusion.

The end of the film has a big elaborate explanation for how Breslin was set up, sent to the prison, etc. and it didn't make a whole lot of sense upon first viewing. I'm not sure it would make a lot of sense upon a second viewing either. But it is what it is.

The Bottom Line:
Despite all of the expected flaws, you already know if you want to see a Stallone / Schwarzenegger action film or not. If you're expecting anything more from "Escape Plan," then you brought it on yourself. It's worth seeing as a rental or on TV, but I'd say it's a toss-up on whether it's worth seeing on the big screen.

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