2013, R, 115 mins.
2013, R, 115 mins.
Sylvester Stallone as Ray Breslin / Arnold Schwarzenegger as Swan / Vinnie Jones as Drake / 50 Cent as Hush / Matt Gerald as Roag / Christian Stokes as Babcock / Jim Caviezel as Willard Hobbes / Vincent D'Onofrio as Lester Clark / Sam Neill as Dr. Emil Kaikev
Directed by Mikael Håfström / Written by Miles Chapman
There’s a sequence late in ESCAPE PLAN that - gosh darn it! - literally made me feel like I was whisked back to a movie theatre in the late 1980’s.
The scene in
question features a military helicopter, an insanely large and heavy machine gun,
and Arnold Schwarzenegger ripping the weapon off of its mount, after which
he engages in a deliciously over-the-top murder spree of nefarious bad
guys while crying out, “Have a lovely day, assholes!”
Au-nald may be approaching ripe retirement home age, but during
this ridiculously rousing moment in ESCAPE PLAN – all done in
fetishistic slow-motion – an inescapable nostalgia washed over me;
it was like I was watching COMMANDO for the first time ever.
PLAN, on paper, has a premise that will leave fans of schlocktastic and
gleefully over-the-top 1980’s action flicks salivating: A prison break
flick with Schwarzenegger and, yes, Sylvester Stallone, both of
whom were arguably the greatest and most iconic action film stars of
the Reagan-era. Obviously,
this new film does not represent the first time that the Terminator and Rambo have occupied the same space on the silver screen (see EXPENDABLES
1 and 2), but those
previous films featuring them were but mild, fleeting teases compared to
what ESCAPE PLAN offers up. This
is a film where these two muscle-bound pillars of machismo are the main leads, and part of the insatiable pleasure of watching it is
these two old pros go at each other mano-a-mano.
For the most part, it all but alleviates the sins of ESCAPE
PLANS’ preposterous narrative.
plays Ray Breslin, one of the foremost security experts in the world.
However, he’s no ordinary security expert: He actually allows
himself to voluntarily be incarcerated in the world’s most secure
prisons so that he can escape from them and then proceed to let the
higher ups of the facilities know what their weak spots are.
In the film’s relatively involving and kind of ingenious opening,
we see Breslin outfox and out-maneuver guards and security at a Colorado
penitentiary. When he’s out
he hooks back up with his security firm’s partner (Vincent D’Onofrio)
who gives Breslin his next assignment, but this time the
whereabouts of the prison are unknown, seeing as it’s a special
Black-Ops facility where only the worst of humanity’s criminal element
are locked up in. Even though
this assignment sounds enormously risky, Breslin takes it for the massive
as crazy as it sounds, then allows himself to be abducted, blindfolded,
and sent to the high tech and state-of-the-art prison, dubbed “The
Tomb.” When he arrives
meets the facility’s warden (an enjoyably creepy and sinister Jim
Caviezel), and it appears from the get-go that Breslin will be all-alone
on his clandestine mission to escape.
Eventually, he meets Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), a political
prisoner that is keeping secrets from the warden that he so desperately
wants. Realizing that the
prison is an ultra-corrupt joint, Breslin decides that he must not only
escape from it (which initially seems impossible), but that he will
inevitably require Rottmayer's aid to make it happen.
After a few cold initial meetings, the pair decides that it would
be in their mutual best interests to team-up, expose the warden for who he
is, and get out of the Tomb alive and in one piece.
one allows themselves to think too hard about the plot of ESCAPE PLAN and
the particulars of Breslin and Rottmayer’s escape plan within it, then
the film’s logic certainly gets crushed by even modest scrutiny. It becomes, well, almost unintentionally laughable the more
the film progresses and sometimes the script takes itself a bit too
seriously. Alas – and like
the finest examples of testosterone-laced and wickedly mindless 80’s
action cinema – ESCAPE PLAN exists as an engine to facilitate our needs to see the monosyllabic Stallone and the wild-eyed Schwarzenegger
appear on screen and exchange self-aware one-liners (and punches!). The two could actually not be anymore different as
performers: Stallone is gruff and monotone, whereas Schwarzenegger is more
charmingly outgoing as an actor and screen presence.
Yet, they work as highly effective foils to each other and their
camaraderie on-screen is unmistakable.
It’s simply a natural geektastic high witnessing these titans
play in scenes together.
I had to pick one character that I naturally gravitated towards then it
would certainly be Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer (who actually gets second
billing in the film in a supporting role; we don’t see him in the story
for the first 30 minutes). The
actor clearly seems to be playfully enjoying his time on the film, and
when he’s not flexing his muscles and eradicating his enemies, Schwarzenegger
manages to infuse some light-weight comedy into the proceedings,
especially with some of his trademark verbal zingers (“You hit like a
vegetarian,” he joyfully lashes out at Breslin after he punches him
during a staged fight). There’s
one scene that’s the film’s high point, during which Rottmayer
purposely allows himself to be locked away in a tiny solitary confinement
cell (to serve as a distraction for Breslin).
While inside, Rottmayer stages an anxiety attack while blaring out
crazed and demented monologues…in German!
It’s both a hysterical and unnervingly effective moment; I’m not
sure that I’ve witnessed Schwarzenegger be more eerily convincing in a
don’t want to comment on the specifics regarding the actual escape plan, other than to say that it’s simultaneously
wholeheartedly unbelievable, all of which involves instances of MacGuyver-like
resourcefulness by Breslin that are more head-scratchingly baffling than
inspiringly inventive. I
think that if the film contained any actors other than Stallone and
Schwarzenegger then the holes in the plot and its more nagging
implausibilities would be too much to digest.
Alas, I found myself so elated with every waking moment featuring
these two action heavyweights that I cared less and less about the
film’s descent into pure silliness.
ESCAPE PLAN is, for lack of a better descriptor, stupid, but it’s
stupid fun and a guilty pleasure all the same.
Like junk food, the film is momentarily tasty and goes down easily.
anything, though, watching this film made me oddly wistful.
It elicited in me thoughts of all of the limitless possibilities of seeing Sly and
Au-nald appearing in a film together, say, 25 years ago and when they were
at the zenith of the action god-like statures.
That would have been a sight to see, indeed.
Unavoidably, watching these borderline geriatric-aged stars finally
appearing in a film together may have come a few decades too late.
Well, better late than never, as I’ll take what ESCAPE PLAN has
offered up…as will most, I surmise, that reveled in the brainless,
no-nonsense extremes of 80’s shoot-em-up pictures.