Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Miles Chapman & Jason Keller (screenplay), Miles Chapman (Story)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Vinnie Jones, Sam Neill, 50 Cent
Runtime: 116 minutes
Yes, Arnie and Sly are back to beat the living daylights out of a couple of people in Mikael Håfström’s Escape Plan. Don’t be fooled, though; there is a bit more in this collaboration than meets the eye, with a few obvious bad points and some surprising good points as well.
From the director that brought us The Rite and 1408, Escape Plan is a bit of diversion. The film puts a focus on maximum security prisons and convicts who always want to get out. Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) – the “Godfather” of structural security – makes a living by analyzing aspects of every high security prison and then applying his unique set of skills to break out of them. The twist occurs when he is framed and thrown into a prison built around his own theories. The big question: Can he break out of what he himself designed to be unbreakable?
Going straight to the elephant in the room: the acting performances. Right off the bat, supporting performances by Vinnie Jones, Faran Tahir, and Sam Neill are excellent. They may have had small roles, but these are performances that add value to the film. Jim Caviezel, by the same token, brings a bit of refinement to the film with his polished character Hobbes. Performances that did not work, however, were those by 50 Cent, Amy Ryan, and Vincent D’Onofrio. It’s not that their performances were bad, they just were not rewarding in any way. There was so much potential, yet what we were presented with was a fraction of what these individuals are capable of. Finally: the duo that is Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone delivers in the various action sequences, switching to what we like to call his “Rambo” mode. His overall performance throughout the film was a tad dry; something he could have refined a bit more. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, delivered throughout the film with his humour, impeccable German dialogue, and occasional “Im a tough guy” stance. Their acting is by no means fantastic, but they stepped away from their cliched styles seen in recent films to deliver something a bit more subtle and on-par with the theme.
A collaboration between Stallone and Schwarzenegger is always going to be a fun experience. Take Expendables 2 for example; not that great of a film if you judge the various elements, but a fun roller-coaster ride overall. Escape Plan is much the same, with a few surprises. The story, unfortunately, is a 50/50 situation. On one hand, the concept of a guy making a living breaking out of prisons is pretty cool, and that part of the film really adds some value to the characters and to the end experience. However, the film is also a bit of a botch job, moving too quickly between scenes and not really creating any hardcore developments that show any depth; some scenes even lack the emotion we want to see. It’s a pity, because there is a mix of fun and intense moments in the film, but with a choppy story and unbalanced directing, one can’t really tie it all together at the end.
The cinematic experience is quite good. The intensity present in some scenes has you gripping the theatre seat, while the action sequences are, quite simply, brilliant. Schwarzenegger and Stallone deliver the action packed sequences the audience will expect walking into the theatre, reflecting their past collaborations. Indeed, it must be noted that the action sequences delivered by both actors in Escape Plan were more realistic and rewarding than those delivered in Expendables 2, which is saying quite a lot. The scenes that involve “correctional methods” – AKA torture – are quite explicit, adding a touch of realism to an otherwise unfruitful story.
Escape Plan is by no means a thought-provoking film. It’s a typical action film that needs to be looked at from an experience point of view rather than a technical one, similar to most superhero and action-adventure films. The audience will be greeted by the Arnie and Sly action they expect, along with a few refreshing performances and fun moments. It may be a bit too much to ask for any more than that.