You know, if I were writing a review about a movie from 25 years ago that had Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in it, it would probably be the best goddamn action movie from the 80s ever. However, Escape Plan is a movie from 2013 and not 1988. This movie is a bit late to the action hero superstar genre, but that doesn’t mean it’s shitty by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually really great, if a bit flawed.
Stallone and Schwarzenegger star in an enjoyable, but completely improbable, prison break adventure that delivers a nice macho 80s vibe. Unlike the last two “Expendables” outings, Stallone and Schwarzenegger appear here, on equal footing, in more than just a handful of scenes. If you’re expecting another wise-cracking hamfest with our heroes spouting clever one-liners, you’re going to be disappointed. (In fact, I don’t recall any notable one-liners.) Refreshingly, Stallone and Schwarzenegger make zero references to their previous Hollywood blockbusters. Everybody plays it straight-forward in this throw-back action feast. Meanwhile, most of the testosterone-laden action consists of everyone either beating or shooting each other. Stallone is a mature, serious-minded, intelligent hero with a Houdini-like talent for breaking out of prisons, while Schwarzenegger plays one of the most dangerous men alive behind bars. Jim Caviezel is a villain so dastardly that you will nod when he explodes. Former British soccer star Vinnie Jones chews the scenery as Caviezel’s second-in-command.
Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) has a very unique set of skills. Able to find the flaws in any prison facility, Breslin inserts himself into correctional institutions and then breaks out to demonstrate their weaknesses. When a government agent offers Breslin double his normal fee to test a non-sanctioned experimental prison, his partners Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) urge him to decline – but the confident escape artist is intrigued by the challenge. Once there, Breslin realizes he’s been set up and discovers he’s trapped in a steel labyrinth designed specifically against his techniques of escape. Now, with no help from the outside and a sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel) monitoring his every move, Breslin must team up with cunning inmate Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to plan the biggest prison break of his career – to save his life.
Ray finds himself surrounded by a formidable population of inmates that want to kill him. Initially Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is one of these brutes, and they don’t cotton to each other. When Ray clobbers Emil with his first blow, Emil observes with a smirk, “You hit like a vegetarian!” Emil changes his mind and comes to our hero’s rescue when the Muslim brotherhood decides to gang up on Ray. Eventually, Ray and Emil become friends. Ray explains that he has been paid to break out. He suffers a number of set-backs, but recovers from Hobbes’ savage treatment with Emil’s help. Ray reveals his formula for success: He must study the layout of the prison, and this means inciting a riot so Hobbes will throw him in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement, the equivalent of Hell, the inmates are caged up and subjected to a blazing battery of search lights that turn the cage into an oven. Next, he scrutinizes the rotation of the guards and their routines while they watch the inmates. The most important part of Ray’s plan is finding somebody on the inside who will help, since he is cut off from Abigail and Hush. The most likely candidate is Dr. Kyrie , the prison doctor (Sam Neill of “Jurassic Park”), but he displays considerable reluctance. I forgot to mention the film has a few other stand out actors, including, a now pretty fat, Vincent D’Onofrio as the business face of the prison break company, and as I said above, 50 Cent for some reason.
Actually, I don’t know why 50 cent’s character, Hush, was even in the movie, he’s a pretty shitty actor and there’s zero chance he has any computer skills in real life making his hacker character that much more unbelievable. It would have been much better if the majority of his screen time was cut out so the plot doesn’t wander off from the prison setting. Also, 50 Cent if you ever read this, please do not kick my ass. All that said however, “Escape Plan” is a silly, fun, dumb, cheesy popcorn flick that, what it lacks in intelligence, it makes up for in its entertainment value.
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger should have teamed up long before “Escape Plan” because they radiate convincing camaraderie. Director Mikael Hafstrom never lets the momentum lag, and he minimizes the clichés that crop up in most prison flicks. (For example, the Muslim inmates are rehabilitated as heroes after they join Ray and Emil.) Our heroes suffer considerably at the hands of the sadistic warden and his lieutenant before they triumph. The worst thing about “Escape Plan” is that its exterior computer-generated imagery appears less than spectacular.