Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Teaming up to star in an action movie! Of course this is destined to be the biggest box office hit of the year….if it was 1988.
But this is 2013. And Sly and Arnold aren’t the powerhouse stars they once were. They still have their fans, but the the majority of audiences seem more drawn to watching superheroes, computer generated effects and younger more manicured action stars engaged in rapidly-edited fight scenes.
With their recent individual ventures of action heroics getting very cool receptions (Arnie’s The Last Stand and Sly’s Bullet To The Head came and went without any fanfare) perhaps pooling their muscles together they could make audiences take notice and generate some excitement.
And we’re not talking about an Expendables-type of movie with one or two scenes of them together – this is a whole movie with them as the leads. You hear that everyone???
Based on the disappointing box office Escape Plan has had I guess no one did. Or at least barely anyone cared.
Stallone is Ray Breslin a guy who specializes in breaking out of the most secure prisons in the world. He pinpoints their weaknesses, implements a clever plan, walks out its doors, explains where the flaws lie in the prison and makes a very comfortable living doing it. This is sort of a more testosterone Sneakers-kind of premise.
Breslin gets recruited to test a new state-of-the-art pen that is ‘off the grid’. However, he discovers the job is a setup and he’s really meant to rot in this place.
Without any backup and persecuted by a devilish warden (Jim Caviezel) Breslin has to use all his smarts in order to formulate some kind of plan to get out of this unbreakable place. Fortunately, he meets fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and perhaps working together they could figure out a way to breathe free air again.
Prison break movies can be a heck of a lot of fun. It’s a simple formula – you toss your characters in some prison cells, set up highly secure obstacles for them to overcome, they implement a well-thought out plan to get around them, a few surprises get thrown at them along the way and by the end their shedding their prison stripes and drinking some beers with a fuming warden pounding his fists back at the clink.
I was surprised at how extremely lackluster Escape Plan was. It’s a very fragmented flick. Things don’t really build in the way you would think they would to a tension-filled escape. Situations arise that would appear to lead to something else, but they just stop.
There’s a segment where the warden wants to break Stallone (I forget why exactly, this is such a forgettable flick). So the guards beat him, they don’t let him sleep, Arnie offers his encouragement to him to fight and then – it all stops! Suddenly they leave Stallone alone.
Maybe I missed something, but it was like they needed filler and threw this bit in. Unless they knew typically the warden has to punish the hero and thought they would include it even if they didn’t have much of a reason for him to do it or a reason for him to stop.
At one point Stallone studies the masked guards. I get it. These guys stay masked so they look more anonymous and the prisoners can’t ID them in anyway. Plus, they look a bit more intimidating. But Stallone starts to learn their body movements and the way they walk. He begins to know who is who. Cool. I was waiting for some kind of payoff to this and nothing comes of it!
There’s not even fun scenes between Sly and Arnie. And they’re paling around together for a very long time in this! They mainly spout out exposition and unnecessary backstory to each other that is completely moot to their current predicament – breaking out of this plasticized joint.
The story itself gets overly complicated with Stallone being setup and mysterious powers pulling the strings and all that. If you’ve watched at least three movies in your life it should take you about five minutes into this to figure out who can’t be trusted. It’s not a shocking reveal at all. The movie itself must not have thought much of it either since all of it gets wrapped up in three minutes at the end.
The supporting characters come and go from the screen without helping things. They either spout out clichéd dialogue like, “I don’t like this” or come out of nowhere to solve a problem after which they disappear completely afterwards (I’m talking to you Sam Neill).
The actual escape – something I would have thought would have been the big centerpiece to a movie called Escape Plan – is incredibly bland. One thing doesn’t lead to another in any satisfying way.
For instance first getting out of their cells, then getting around the guards, then getting to the control room, there’s no real clever ways they devise to do any of this. It all just happens with very little ingenuity and you’re not left being impressed by the solutions they come up with.
There’s no cool escape. No fun one-liners by our leads. The big fight between Stallone and Vinny Jones is numbingly routine. The action is almost non-existent. Caviezel is the only one who seems to be trying to do anything as he tries to make his warden as evil as he can. Arnie manages to eek out a few mild chuckles, but it’s only because the rest of the movie is so devoid of anything interesting to watch. Everyone else is just doing a paint-by-numbers, badly-done, straight-to-dvd flick that is not even worth the rental.
This flick deserved to bomb.
It's times like this where I start to miss the early internet movie reviews.
In this case, The Warden of Prisonfilcks.com. I would have loved to have gotten his input on this film. Unfortunately, his website has been consigned to Wayback Machine history.
But this movie sounds like a souped up remake of Stallone 1989 film Lock Up. In that film, he was a escape artist who was brought to a special prison under a sadistic warden who had it in for Stallone. Part of their intimidation was to beat and sleep deprive Stallone.
You can read The Warden's review here:
Stallone needs to stop looking to the past to revitalize his career. He needs something new and interesting. And he needs to find it SOON!
I've heard acouple of people make the comparison to Lock Up. I actually never saw it, but someone did tell me the solitary room with bright lights that heats the box up in Escape Plan is sort of the same as a thing they did in Lock Up. This flick was very disappointing, I was hoping for the very least some dumb fun, I did not have high expectations at all and in the end I was just left shaking my head.
The best prison escape film I ever saw was Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz (not including war movies). The heart and soul of that movie was watching Eastwood MacGyver up his equipment and make his escape.
Less was indeed more in that film. And I seem to watch it once evert year. Showing that a movie doesn't have to be flashy to be interesting.
Funny, it was the other film Stallone made in 1989 that I thought would be mentioned, and that was TANGO & CASH with Kurt Russell…there was an alright prison break sequence in that movie, and it sounds much more fun than anything in LOCK UP or ESCAPE PLAN.
I didn't like THE LAST STAND at all; I found BULLET TO THE HEAD marginally better, but still quite forgettable. If you ask me, Arnie needs to retire and ditto Capt. Nemo that Stallone should find something else to do. He keeps on saying he wants to make another RAMBO…a series which I've held no respect for whatsoever. Always found 'em silly and borderline offensive; at least Arnie had a sense of humor in COMMANDO. At any rate, thanks for the review Hap, made me decide rather quickly to leave this one alone.
The last movie I watched on DVD was Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried as the legendary porn star from the film DEEP THROAT. Pretty good, although if you are already familiar with the story, there are few surprises. If anything, it probably came off like a masterpiece compared to ESCAPE PLAN, even if they are in different galaxies as far as genre is concerned.