SYLVESTER STALLONE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER JIM CAVIEZEL SAM NEILL 50 CENT AMY RYAN
Apparently they like each other’s company because they can’t stop working together. The Expendables is marketed in a certain way to a certain audience, but Escape Plan goes a little further to test the comeback status of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Honestly, the first hour of this film isn’t as bad as you might think; the concept is certainly a new twist on the prison film, but it’s that egotistical bravado, the “I must save the day attitude” at the end that jerks this movie back into ‘yawn’ territory. It’s directed by Mikael Hafstrom, who had a halfway hit in 1408 and then a major skunk with The Rite.
Roy Breslin (Stallone) is the break-out-of-prison mastermind; he literally wrote the book on it. He is highly sought after to point out flaws and escape plans in prisons by being imprisoned for long periods of time himself. After just breaking out and exposing flaws on a six month stint, he and his company are offered a large amount of money to do a job for the government. The catch, however, is that the prison’s location cannot be divulged. It’s an off the grid prison for the types of people that have “disappeared” according to the CIA agent that pitches the job to Breslin. Once inside, however, he quickly realizes the terms of the agreement were not met and someone wants him here forever.
The idea of someone breaking out of prisons is a unique idea within itself, and a script written around that idea is pretty interesting. However, Breslin’s unusual career path is just a decoy to get Stallone in another dire situation where he can be chummy buddies with Schwarzenegger, who is a fellow inmate. When the “off the grid prison” scenario is first pitched in the film, a little imagination can conjure up exactly how the remainder of the movie will play out if you are familiar with Stallone’s work. While the fun is typically in the chase, or in this case the piecing together an escape plan, there is no suspense as to what the final outcome will be.
There is a bit of MacGyver action, some cheesy comedic moments from Schwarzenegger, and, of course, lots of brutality. Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) as the warden is an interesting choice for an actor who almost disappeared after portraying Jesus in one of the biggest hits of all time. Escape Plan begins its downward descent when the film’s big twist is revealed midway. The originality that the film had sold us on up to that point is flushed out to sea as the guns and the fighting take us into the credits.
Final Thought – After the first impressive hour turns sour, there is no escape for the viewer.
Grade C By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
For an action film loaded with violence, the intricacies of plot and moral nuances in Escape Plan were much more than I expected. The fundamental basis of the story has to do with the ability to escape the most secure prison environments that exist. That is Breslin’s (Sylvester Stallone) art, and it is fascinating to watch him demonstrate his thought and planning as he successfully makes his escapes from what to us seem like impossible challenges, especially in the last facility.
Schwarzenegger, as Rottmayer, is on hand to assist and bounce ideas around, and his own personality and shades of characters he has played in the past come through to provide levity and ease the tension from time to time. Jim Caviezal as the head of the facility where most of the action takes place is cold and forbidding, but not as terrifying as his role calls for him to be. It may be that I have seen too many episodes of Person of Interest to see him as evil as he is supposed to be in this film, and that might have biased my observation, but I really think he is slightly miscast. He didn’t work up a lot of hate in me.
The members of Breslin’s company—Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), Abigail (Amy Ryan), and Hush (50 Cent)—make up a fine supporting cast, along with Sam Neill, who plays the doctor at the last facility.
I am not familiar with the director Mikael Hafstrom’s previous work, but in this film, his direction is apparent in the pacing and quality of acting. Credit can also be given to the writers (Miles Chapman and Jason Keller) for a story that is both engaging and thoughtful, although the plot tested reality at times. For instance, although Breslin was seen towards the end doing some work in his cell, most of the time he could do what he wanted and talk as much as he wanted without being observed—this with glass walls and constant computer surveillance. The color of the film was very dark—so dark it was hard to see the action at times—but that may have more to do with the theater’s projector than to the cinematography (Brendan Galvin).
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Escape Plan; my only wish is that filmmakers would tamp down the sadistic brutality. It is not really necessary for it to be so extreme, and I figure it’s not really good for us to see, even in fantasy.