Action Escape Plan

Jailbroken Film Review: Escape Plan

October 18, 2013Ben MK

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Reliving the glory days

By Ben Mk

It's hard to believe that 2012 was the first time action icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger shared the screen together. Well, they must have had a helluva time on The Expendables 2, because the pair are at it again in Escape Plan. This time, they're teaming up in an attempt to break out of one of the world's most secure maximum security facilities.

In the film, Stallone plays Ray Breslin, an escape artist who makes his living breaking out of US federal prisons in order to prove their vulnerabilities. Breslin has 3 simple requirements for a successful escape: 1. Know the layout. 2. Understand the routine. 3. Have help from outside or in.

The layout (a.k.a. the plot) of Escape Plan is simple. After years of being inserted into every single federal penitentiary in America -- all in the name of breaking out to prove a point (and to make some cash) -- Breslin and his partner, Lester Clark (Vincent D'Onofrio), receive an offer from the CIA to insert him into a new facility -- a privately-funded and privately-operated Supermax for those "best left disappeared" called "The Tomb" -- with the promise of a five million dollar payday. The catch? No one -- neither Breslin nor his associates -- can know the location of the facility. Oh, and Breslin may never be able to get out because someone wants him locked up there forever.

Now the routine (a.k.a. the execution) -- It's not long into the film before Escape Plan settles into the Supermax setting and we're introduced to Breslin's new best friend, Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger); from there on out, it's all about busting out of the prison. Think of it as an extended version of the prison sequence from Face/Off -- with Stallone in place of Nic Cage. But for a film with two of the biggest action stars of all time as the leads, there isn't nearly as much time spent on action as there is on, well ... planning. There may even be too much time spent plotting, as the film feels like it could be trimmed by about half an hour. Escape Plan relies heavily on the audience's nostalgia for the action films of the mid-nineties -- when one-liners were plentiful -- and on the charisma and chemistry of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. With this in mind, it doesn't disappoint. This is particularly true of the final act, when the action really ramps up and we're treated to an audience-pleasing "Get to the Choppa" slow motion homage to Arnie's submachine gun-toting heyday.

Escape Plan has plenty of help from the outside, in the form of an impressive cast. It may be a B-level story, but it's definitely infused with some A-level talent. Joining Stallone, Schwarzenegger and D'Onofrio are Amy Ryan and Curtis (50 Cent) Jackson as Breslin's associates, Jim Caviezel as the prison's warden, Sam Neill as the prison's doctor and Vinnie Jones as a particulary nasty prison guard. The cast adds a bit of class to the proceedings, especially Caviezel, who does his best to chew the scenery as the megalomaniac warden. But it's still Sly and Arnie who steal the show with their quippy one-liners and effortless rapport.

The Bottom Line

They don't make films like this anymore, but that may be the point. Escape Plan is a fun throwback to the action films of twenty years ago. It plays heavily on nostalgia, but take that away and it's a somewhat dated effort. Luckily, Stallone and Schwarzenegger exude enough charm to make the film entertaining enough; so if that's what you're up for, then you're in luck. It's not an all-out action-fest like The Expendables films, but it's a decent enough diversion for an afternoon matinee. [★★★]

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