Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Sam Neil, Faran Tahir, Vinnie Jones
Written by: Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko
Running Time: 116 mins
Release date: 18th October 2013
There are some films that have titles that could be called cryptic, or obscure, or even just bizarre. Escape Plan is one of those titles that does exactly what it says on the tin. It also stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger so you know it’s not going to be a musical or Oscar possible. What you get is an action film about a plan to escape. There you go. Bob’s your uncle. Nothing else to see here. Actually, there is because as meat-headed prison dramas go, it’s not bad. Not brilliant but not bad.
Ray Breslin is a world authority in prison security. He has broken out of 14 maximum security prisons and now he has been given another job, which sounds dangerous but Breslin is up for the challenge. His normal get-out-of-jail-free cards, however, are stripped and he is thrown into a new kind of prison, called The Tomb, where the worst of the worst are kidnapped and dumped without any trials or arrests. Glass cells are the living quarters and no matter how much Breslin complains to warden Hobbes, he isn’t getting out. He befriends fellow prisoner Rottmayer and the pair use each other to get out of the unescapable.
The first time that Arnie and Sly share the screen for a full movie (they have, of course, starred together in The Expendables films) should have been a big thing. The 80s box office champs with loads of action-filled movies under their belts, deserved a bigger and better vehicle and maybe that is on the horizon, so in the meantime, this will bridge the gap. It is a much smaller scale film compared to the pair’s previous presentations but having said that, it’s not a complete disaster.
Maybe it needed a better director than Mikael Hafstrom, who hasn’t really tackled action films before (he’s best known for the Anthony Hopkins horror The Rites). He does a workmanlike job of it. There’s no pretensions, no flashy camera work, no imaginative cinematic trickery. It’s just point the camera at the actors and let them do their thing. The script is also hardly original. It ticks all the boxes as far as prison dramas are concerned. Dodgy warden, sadistic prison officer, cliché dialogue.
What makes it a much more entertaining film than it has any right to be is the cast. Sly, as Breslin, we are made to believe, is incredibly intelligent, yet still muscle-bound. Arnie, as a father figure, is, well, Arnie and even got a round of applauds by the audience at my screening for a typical Arnie shot so they were happy. Jim Caviezel almost whispers his lines as the sinister Hobbes and Sam Neil, as the prison doctor, just seems to be there to get the cheque so he can pay the rent. Oh, and Vinnie Jones does his London gangster thing as the violent prison guard.
For the two-hour running time, it’s perfectly fine. There’s fist fights and brutality. Guns a-blazing in the highly dubious finale and enough plot holes to contact the council to get someone to fill them in. Yes, you can check your brain in at the door and let it brush over you. It won’t set the screen alight and you won’t need to have any deep conversations afterwards. If you just go in expecting utter nonsense, you won’t be disappointed. Would have been nice to have seen a bigger film for Rocky and The Terminator though.