Prison Break finally gets its big screen debut, but instead of a tattooed escape artist who always whispers, this time it stars two former action stars who refuse to accept their withering health.
Escape Plan is one of the best 80’s movies that was sadly never made in the 80’s. You know, back when plotholes, the leading men and the campy action was relevant. While Schwarzenneger and Stallone worked together in the 2 Expendables flicks, we never truly got scenes of them playing off each other. Having these two play off each other in the same movie finally is fantastic, even if it is 30 years too late.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a guy who is so skilled at breaking out of maximum security prisons he wrote the book on it. No, really. His character wrote a book about weaknesses in prison security. While in his high-profile security corporate office, he is requested by a CIA agent to test the weaknesses of an “off the grid” penitentiary in exchange for a very healthy sum of money. He takes the “job” but it doesn’t quite go as planned, as he is forcefully expedited to the prison. While there, he realizes he’s surrounded by the worst-of-the-worst people in an inescapable prison.
He is quickly befriended by Emil Rottmayer (Scwarzenegger), a fellow elderly convict who takes interest in Breslin’s plans for escape. Meanwhile, the malicious warden (Jim Caviezel) watches their every move and revels in the pain his guards inflict on these two partners in crime.
Escape Plan has one of the most bizarre casts of any film this year. Starring alongside Stallone, Caviezel and Schwarzenegger, are 50 Cent (fitty), Vincent D’Onofrio (Edgar suit), Sam Neill (They do travel in herds), Vinnie Jones (Lil’ Chris) and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan. There is almost no reason for any of these actors to be involved in this testosterone-heavy movie other than Jones, who gets to sneer and inflict violence.
You can tell Caviezel is enjoying chewing the scenery in a role that’s better suited for grindhouse flicks. Stallone is a conundrum in this movie (and the Expendables). Everyone else involved is in on the joke and looks like they’re having fun with the mediocre source material, yet Stallone takes the entire experience far too seriously. He still plays the movie as if he was a 40 year old in good shape. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, has invented a new persona in his comeback movies. He wants the audience to laugh with him as he tries to play the tough wise-cracker he used to be, but has so clearly aged. He never once asks you to take his character seriously.
Disregarding all I’ve said so far, this movie is meant to be a return to the campy action flicks we all knew and loved in the 80’s. Does it succeed. Yes, in a way. First off, it’s not tight enough. You have to wait through 90 minutes of unintelligible dialogue and boring setup to get to the explosive ending. The climax of Escape Plan is pure 80’s escapism. As an example, Schwarzenegger rips a machine gun off of a helicopter and (in slow motion) guns down dozens of masked prison guards. If Escape Plan didn’t try to tie everything in the movie together with an inconceivable plothole, the ending would have left you with a good aftertaste.
Escape Plan is a worthy Saturday night rental. It’s a perfect movie if you want to turn your brain off and watch two classic action stars join forces. If it were more fun, I’d give it a stronger recommendation. But as a throwaway flick relying on the history of the two leads, it finds its footing at the end. No need to see this in the theater.