Review – Escape Plan

The godfathers of testosterone-fuelled old school action cinema are back to show the young pretenders how they did it in the 80s in this infectiously entertaining slice of nonsense.

Although nowhere near Sly and Arnie's best, Escape Plan does enough to satisfy anyone rubbing their hands with nostalgic anticipation at the prospect of finally seeing these two heavyweights of action cinema let rip together

Although nowhere near Sly and Arnie’s best, Escape Plan does enough to satisfy anyone rubbing their hands with nostalgic anticipation at the prospect of finally seeing these two heavyweights of action cinema let rip together

It may not carry the same dramatic heft as the famous scene in Heat when Robert De Niro and Al Pacino finally appeared together, but watching the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone trading one-liners and wielding big guns has its own guilty pleasure.

Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) realise it's not the 1980s anymore in Escape Plan

Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) realise it’s not the 1980s anymore in Escape Plan

This may not be the first movie where they’ve shared screen time – that came in truncated form in The Expendables and its forgettable sequel – but Escape Plan has the bragging rights of being the first time these two former enemies-turned best buddies have shared top billing.

Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a security expert who tests the reliability of prisons by breaking out of them. He’s offered a challenge (and a big payday) he can’t resist; namely to escape from a top-secret, ultra-secure jail called ‘The Tomb’. His partners Abigail (Amy Ryan) and tech wiz Hush (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson) don’t like it, but his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) can already smell the cash and urges Ray to accept.

Jim Caviezel couldn't be bothered learning his lines as Warden Willard Hobbs in Escape Plan

Jim Caviezel couldn’t be bothered learning his lines as Warden Willard Hobbs in Escape Plan

No sooner is Ray inside, though, he realises he’s been set up and so must recruit fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to devise a cunning escape plan to break out of The Tomb. However, he must not only contend with the sadistic guards, who look like extras from Westworld, but also evil warden Willard Hobbs (Jim Caviezel).

One of the Westworld-style prison guards in Escape Plan

One of the Westworld-style prison guards in Escape Plan

Anyone (myself included) who grew up watching Sly and Arnie taking down whole armies single-handed or saving the world from unstoppable robots were generally more interested in the hilariously over-the-top violence and corny one-liners than unimportant things like ‘acting’ or ‘characterisation’.

Inmates Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) get acquainted in Escape Plan

Inmates Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) get acquainted in Escape Plan

That fine tradition has been maintained in Escape Plan, which knows its audience and doesn’t try to do anything more sophisticated than serve up a healthy portion of buddy movie clichés and geriaction set pieces.

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) brings the pain in Escape Plan

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) brings the pain in Escape Plan

That’s certainly not to say it’s a bad film – far from it. Mikael Håfström may not be the most inspiring of directors (his style can probably be best described as ‘functional’), but he’s smart enough to give moviegoers what they want, namely plenty of Sly and Arnie.

Schwarzenegger in particular looks like he’s having a ball and does a nice job wringing the laughs out of the script. If The Expendables franchise has proved anything, it’s that Stallone works better these days playing opposite someone instead of trying to carry a film by himself and looks relaxed and energised as the straight man opposite Arnie.

Vincent D'Onofrio channeling Marlon Brando (physically anyway) as Lester Clark in Escape Plan

Vincent D’Onofrio channeling Marlon Brando (physically anyway) as Lester Clark in Escape Plan

Both Ryan and Sam Neill, who plays Dr Emil Kyrie, look like they’re waiting for their pay cheque to arrive, while D’Onofrio seems to be going for Touch Of Evil-era Orson Welles in his white hat and expanding waistline. Meanwhile, Jackson can’t act if his rap career depended on it; Britain’s Vinnie Jones goes through his usual repertoire of angry faces as head screw Drake; and Caviezel provides a seriously hammy turn as Hobbs, a counterpoint to his role as Number 6 in the 2009 TV miniseries The Prisoner based on the classic 1960s show.

Hobbs’ chief hobby, aside from tormenting the inmates, is trapping butterflies in clear  boxes, which is as deep and symbolic as it gets.

Although nowhere near Sly and Arnie’s best, Escape Plan does enough to satisfy anyone rubbing their hands with nostalgic anticipation at the prospect of finally seeing these two heavyweights of action cinema let rip together.

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16 comments

  1. Tom · October 23, 2013

    “…and Caviezel provides a seriously hammy turn as Hobbs, a counterpoint to his role as Number 6 in the 2009 TV miniseries The Prisoner…” interesting reference there man. I went with the Jesus one in mine!!! LOL. maybe yours is a little more P-C? (whatever that means, anyway). great review, I am relieved you managed to enjoy it also for what it was. . . . this was so dumb but so much fun it was well worth it. glad I saw this instead of Carrie that night.

    • Three Rows Back · October 27, 2013

      Cheers Tom. I always try to sneak a nerdy reference in there somewhere!

  2. CMrok93 · October 23, 2013

    Hilariously dumb, but in a very fun way. That said, brain cells will be lost. Nice review.

    • Three Rows Back · October 27, 2013

      Ha ha, yeah. Brain cells are something you don’t need when watching this!

  3. Tim The Film Guy · October 23, 2013

    Nostalgic indeed, very fun 😀

  4. Tyson Carter · October 23, 2013

    Looks fun!!!

  5. Chris · October 24, 2013

    You’re not lying about Arnold. Dude was a blast to watch, and this movie really was just a joy. Good review. 🙂

    • Three Rows Back · October 27, 2013

      Thanks Chris. Arnie’s one of my heroes and he’s on great form in this. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · October 24, 2013

    Seen some surprisingly positive reviews of this one. Looks alright for a bit of mindless fun. Nice review man.

    • Three Rows Back · October 27, 2013

      Much obliged Chris. If you get chance to watch it let me know your thoughts mate.

  7. thomasjford · October 24, 2013

    Being 33, I remember all too well the glory days of Arnie and co, but the fact that I hated the Expendables doesn’t bode well for me liking this to be honest. In fact, I could do with out ALL of the ‘geriaction’ films coming out. The joke has worn thin I think. Good review though mate!

    • Three Rows Back · October 27, 2013

      To be fair they don’t dwell on the geriaction. Neither says “I’m getting too old for this shit” etc. It’s a blast and if you love Arnie you’ll get a lot out of it I think. Thanks for the feedback.

  8. sanclementejedi · October 26, 2013

    Might give this one a watch. I actually thought that The Last Stand was pretty good so I will probably like this one as well.

    • Three Rows Back · October 27, 2013

      I thought The Last Stand was ok, nothing more. This is a step up though from that. Thanks for the feedback buddy.

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