There are plenty of guilty pleasures in life. Eating an entire pint of double chocolate chip ice cream in one sitting. Taking occasional afternoon delight breaks. Playing the ponies at the racetrack. When it comes to movies, however, there is no form of escapism better than a mindless action movie. Mikael Hafstrom (The Rite) doesn’t beat around the bush with his latest directorial outing. “Escape Plan” is pure genre fare in the truest form. It’s plenty over the top, rife with scratch your head in confusion storytelling, and has a plot more gimmicky than a primetime Bravo reality TV show. But by bringing in Hollywood macho men Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, “Escape Plan” is also a thoroughly fun film to watch.
Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, the world’s leading authority on prisons. There has never been a lock-up situation Ray hasn’t been able to break out of. For a guy that is paid handsomely by the government to point out the flaws in maximum-security jails, that’s a good thing. Everything changes, though, after Ray and his associates are offered double their normal rate to evaluate The Tomb. Besides its foreboding name, the uber private, off-the-grid penitentiary is being run using Breslin’s personal protocols.
Once inside, the jail breaker extraordinaire finds out that The Tomb is a pitiless high-tech warehouse housing some of the world’s deadliest lawbreakers. He also learns that he has been double crossed by one of his colleagues and left to rot in the slammer. Finding an unexpected friend in the prison’s mysterious strong man (Schwarzenegger), Breslin begins to plan his escape.
Okay, back up for just one moment. I have no problem suspending my disbelief for the sake of cinema. In fact, I encourage it. But there is no mistaking the absolutely ludicrous nature of this premise. Seriously screenwriters Miles Chapman (Road House 2: Last Call) and Arnell Jesko, do you honestly expect the audience to pony up to the idea that it’s totally plausible that the US government actually pays people to go undercover into prisons, break out of them, and then turn around and point out their flaws? Even more absurd is the notion that the Feds would knowingly give a domestic citizen the opportunity to break out of a jail bigger, scarier, and more secretive than Guantanamo Bay.
While I’m not buying the film’s goofy premise, Schwarzenegger and Stallone’s performances alone are worth the price of admission. In one of his first major roles since his Governator years—I’m skipping the two “Expendables” films because they were only cameos—Schwarzenegger definitely shows that he hasn’t become camera shy with age. He may have a few more grey hairs, most likely due to his recent home life debacle, but the Austrian actor is in fine form whenever in frame. His accent is as thick as ever, and his acting has never been more labored, but there is no denying that Schwarzenegger’s dominant presence is felt every time the camera finds his visage.
Stallone, who has been an action hero staple for over three decades, is equally as captivating to watch. Whenever he is on screen with his co-star, it is obvious that the two are having a ton of fun making a movie together. Acting tough when they need to, Stallone and Schwarzenegger more often than not get to poke fun at each other, crack jokes, and enjoy the cheesiness that is “Escape Plan.”
Very early on, when Stallone’s Breslin character first enters The Tomb, he somehow gets into a scrum with Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer. Even though the two are absolutely pummeling one another, there is no mistaking the ear-to-ear smiles spread across each of their faces. “Escape Plan” is essentially Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s way of having fun together all while getting paid at the same time. Hafstrom’s discreet, straightforward directing approach is perfect for two actors that are at their best with a gun in each hand and blood brooding in their
While its premise had me running to the nearest exit, there is really no need to escape “Escape Plan.” It’s a fun time for the people in front of the camera as well as those sitting in the audience soaking all of the senseless violence in.
By David Morris