At the combined age of 133, it’s good to see that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger can still put together a decent flick without involving 20 of their closest action buddies.
Prison security specialist Ray Breslin (Stallone) has made a career of breaking out of “secure” facilities in order to teach the prison system where to spot holes in their defenses. For his latest assignment he will be held in a CIA detention facility that claims to be the best of the best. Things go awry, however, when Breslin wakes up in a prison that has been perfected by his own reports, where neither the warden (Jim Caviezel) nor the guards are aware of his objective. Without any back-up or knowledge of where his prison is, Breslin must turn to the prisoner Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to break out of the prison and discover who set him up.
When you see a movie poster that includes names like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, you can expect a certain amount of old-school masculinity and suspension of disbelief. Although both of those could be applied to this film, there’s nothing here much more ridiculous than your standard action film. What does get a little annoying is the large number of movie cliches found in the script. There are certain characters you meet once and immediately know what part they will play 45 minutes later. While the story never reaches mind-numbing stupidity, the inexperience of its 2 writers (who have written a combined 2 films prior to “Escape Plan”) is abundantly clear throughout its 115 minutes. I can honestly say there wasn’t a single surprise in the script. That being said, you should be aware of what you’re getting into when you buy a ticket for this type of film.
Although the script was unsurprising, the acting from Schwarzenegger here is some of his best work (whatever that’s worth to you). His character is far more interesting than Stallone’s one-note protagonist and he also gets to handle the big guns in the film’s finale. Jim Caviezel, who never gets as much work as he deserves, is satisfyingly evil as the warden of the top secret CIA prison.
It would make sense for “Escape Plan” to be the kind of action-fest expected of its stars but the film is, for the most part, a prison break film. Most of its running time is spent on strategizing and the characters feeling their way around the prison. It’s not until the ending that we get the kind of fight choreography and explosions that sell tickets.
“Escape Plan” is the typical action film you find around the Sept/Oct time of year: not good enough to hang out with the big summer blockbusters, but better than the trash bin months of the year (Jan/Feb). It’s not pretty, but if you’re looking for something to watch on a rainy afternoon, you could do much worse.
Follow me on Twitter @VC_Reviews where I’m counting down my 10 favorite horror films for Halloween.