Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones
“Have a great day, asshole.”
Ahoy, meat heads! Aidan here.
So…. better late than never, right? This bad boy came out almost two weeks ago, but hey, us Renegades keep busy.
I’ve been having difficulty writing a review of Escape Plan because the flick’s exactly what I expected. It holds few surprises and brings even fewer innovations to the table in terms of what an action movie can be (i.e. Hard Boiled or The Raid: Redemption), but come on. That’s what we all expected.
And guess what? It still f**king rocks.
However, there are some drawbacks. The novelty here lies almost solely in the retro appeal of the film’s leading men, which, don’t get me wrong, is quite potent and magical – but, as is often the case in high-concept movie star vehicles,, they just need a better movie.
This thing is more of a thin veneer, a thinly-threaded connective tissue that exists to bridge us to the next scene featuring the leathery rock-n-roll of our heroes’ bullet-scarred skin.
Escape Plan follows Ray Breslin (Stallone), a structural-security expert who finds himself set up and incarcerated in the world’s most secret and secure prison. Once inside, he teams up with a fellow inmate (Schwarzenegger) to escape and claim retribution.
The prison – “The Tomb,” as the movie’s universe coins it – is silly and futuristic. The characters are cardboard. The production value is meh. But it’s still awesome! It’s awesome. I loved it in the way I love Showdown in Little Tokyo or Commando. It’s big, fun, manly ridiculousness. And you knew that’s what it would be.
The film’s effectiveness lies in its simplicity, and its faults set in when it takes itself seriously. When Escape Plan has fun with itself, we have fun with it. But it often stumbles in an awkwardly ineffective gray area between exploitation fun and serious action cinema.
In this case, the former is entirely more appropriate.
As stated before, the main draw(s) of Escape Plan is/are obvious. Sly and Arnold. I’m not sure if their material is truly better than that of the characters around them or if their onscreen personas are really that much more charming, but their scenes make for the movie’s best. One comedic scene in particular featuring Arnold and the Warden (Caviziel) had the theater roaring with laughter.
The movie is punctuated with tiny moments of greatness like this, but it never achieves consistency. I almost dreaded the enjoyable scenes because I knew another offensively mediocre one was soon to follow.
The supporting cast of Escape Plan is essentially nonexistent. Stallone’s concerned cronies back at his security firm try their hardest to squeeze something out of the material, but dammit, there isn’t anything there. 50 Cent struggles to act his little heart out, but for the life of me, I still cannot understand why studio execs are still trying to sell us Mr. Jackson as the next Common. It’s not going to happen.
Caviezel comes the closest to delivering a memorable performance from a second-tier character, but he’s still a stock villain trying too hard to mirror frequently-mimicked craziness of Gary Oldman’s villainous turn as Norman Stansfield in 1994’s Leon: The Professional.
Still though, when a movie’s climax brandishes Sly firing a pistol while hanging off the ladder of a helicopter that Arnold is piloting as he unloads copious amounts of bullets into the bad guys… you can’t really go too wrong. I’m trying to savor this mini-era of 1980s action cinema resurgence while it lasts, and under that context, beggars can’t be choosers.
These guys are still kicking ass in traditional R-rated fashion, and that’s enough for me.
Escape Plan is, well… fun. It doesn’t come near the heights reached by its 1980s ancestors, and doesn’t even quite reach the brass-balled levels of testosterone-soaked insanity that the Expendables franchise does. It’s low-impact popcorn fare that gives kicks from its stars, nothing else. Recommended, but to die-hards (pun intended) only.