Stallone – the Italian Stallion. Schwarzenegger – the Austrian Avenger. If you were to slap those two names onto a movie thirty years ago, you’d have lines stretching around the block of people wanting to see two of the most badass, machismo action stars throw down in a fury of carnage, explosions, and unabated mayhem. Three decades later, things haven’t changed much except for a bit of muscle sag here and a feeling of “I’m-too-old-for-this” there, but if you were to ask me if these two still had it in them to deliver an exceptionally exciting experience, I’d say yes – hell yes. So why does Mikael Hafstrom’s “Escape Plan” fail to provide much of the thrills we’ve come to expect from these two? Let’s break into this review and find out.
I Break Out of Prisons for a Living
Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, an employee of a private security firm which tests the security of maximum-security prisons to see if they’re truly inescapable. Ray’s job entails him being placed within the confines of said institutions, studying anything and everything he can about their weaknesses and ultimately, breaking out. When a CIA agent offers Ray a multi-million dollar deal to break out of the most secure prison on the planet – called “the Tomb” – Ray goes against his better judgment and agrees. But when he’s double-crossed and thrown into the prison with no way to contact the outside, he teams up with fellow inmate Emil Rottmeyer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to break out and uncover the conspiracy behind who set him up.
What makes “Escape Plan” work is its two stars – and not really much else. Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s on-screen chemistry is stronger than it was in last year’s “The Expendables 2” and the scenes they share are truly the strongest of the film. That’s not to say the rest of the cast is absolutely forgettable (save for some), but, let’s face it, you’re not going to see this film because of 50 Cent (in yet another forgettable role) or Jim Caviezel – who gives a less-than-stellar performance as the cold, sadistic warden Hobbes. It’s not that I disliked Caviezel’s character; it’s just that I wish he did more with it. With his calm yet threatening demeanour, he had no problem fitting the bill of ‘the uncaring antagonist’ but at times, it felt like I was watching a robot and not an actual human being. The rest of the supporting cast are essentially the same story and after a while, it becomes clear that most of the focus went to Stallone/Schwarzenegger and everyone else was left to fend for themselves, more or less.
Vinnie Jones plays Hobbes’ equally-evil head officer Drake (but to be honest, he’s really playing every bad-guy role he’s played before). Sam Neill pops up surprisingly as a doctor sympathetic to the ill-treated inmates but is given so little exposition and screen-time that I wondered what he was even doing there and almost every other supporting character is so hollow and uninteresting you wish they didn’t even exist – which is pretty much the case, to be honest.
The Best-Laid Plans
Though it’s a prison-break film, the cornerstone here is not so much the actual breakout as it is the planning that goes into it and this film’s strongest scenes were the scenes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger working together to bring their plan to fruition. There was never a scene where I was bored by what they were doing and all the hiccups they encountered only made the action that much better, and made the eventual breakout something rewarding. The breakout itself is a little underwhelming at times and features a couple of cheesy lines but all in all, acts as a satisfying finale to a slow-burning breakout film.
“Escape Plan” offers much in the form of Stallone/Schwarzenegger badass-ery but not really much else. While the plot does feel like a short version of the first season of “Prison Break,” it does take a few liberties here and there and tries to flesh out its meaty male co-stars, which adds a bit of heart to this otherwise cold film. If you’re a fan of action and Stallone and/or Schwarzenegger (or all of the above) then this is the film for you. Catch it before it escapes theaters.