ESCAPE PLAN (Dir. Mikael Håfström, 2013)
There’s just no way Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger can make a movie together that isn’t a throwback to their ‘80s action heyday. It's simply impossible.
Of course, THE EXPENDABLES movies have been there and done that (and will again), but this shiny formulaic prison break movie, a buddy-convict flick if you will, proves that maxim all over again.
The graying former rivals (they never would’ve appeared in each others’ movies during the Reagan era) here play fellow inmates in a secret state of the art maximum security facility that highly resembles the futuristic prison in John Woo’s FACE/OFF – you know, the ‘90s over-the-top action film in which John Travolta and Nicholas Cage traded faces? Yeah, I thought you’d remember.
Anyway, Stallone plays a “secure structure expert,” who is employed by various contractors to break out of prisons to test the strength of their security. The CIA hires him to go undercover to their new high-tech super prison to find the flaws in their system, but his methods are immediately compromised by a truck full of thugs who abduct him and remove the G.P.S. tracker embedded in his arm.
This leaves his staff including Amy Ryan (The Wire, The Office), and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson scrambling to find his location, while his boss (Vincent D’Onofrio) seems less concerned, obviously because he was involved in the set-up.
Jim Caviezel (PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Person Of Interest), as the sinister as can be Warden, knows Stallone’s real identity (he even uses Stallone’s book on building an escape-proof prison as a reference guide), and has evil plans to use Stallone and Schwarzenegger to find the whereabouts of a never seen terrorist mastermind named Manheim.
If that last paragraph seemed a bit hard to follow, it really doesn’t matter as its just mysterious background fodder to the main action dealing with escaping from the prison which turns out to be located inside an oil tanker somewhere in the middle of the ocean. See what I mean about the prison’s similarity to FACE/OFF?
In the midst of these convolutions, Schwarzenegger has the best lines, like “You hit like a vegetarian,” while Stallone does his stoical man in deep thought thing, and there is juicy turn by Vinne Jones as a sadistic guard. A not so juicy turn is put in by the odd casting of Sam Neill as a prison doctor who so seems like he’d rather be anywhere else.
ESCAPE PLAN is smarter than THE EXPENDABLES movies, but it's still really stupid. However, hardcore fans who’ve been waiting for the duo of the Italian Stallion and Ahnold to break away from the EXPENDABLES ensemble of aging action stars and do a true buddy film where they kick a lot of ass together will surely find it to be explosively entertaining.
As someone who’s not particularly a big fan of either heavy weight, but has come to appreciate their brands over the years, I found it to be a B-movie blast. It has the look, feel, and gusto of Stallone and Schwazenegger’s greatest guilty pleasures – consider it LOCK UP meets COMMANDO. No self-deprecating jokes about being aging relics this time around, just good ole '80s-style action 101.