If this was 1987, Escape Plan would have been just about the most exciting prospect any popcorn flick fan had ever heard of, but Schwarzenegger and Stallone aren’t quite the box office titans they once were. So if they’re going to make a movie together they need something worthwhile around them and unfortunately Escape Plan doesn’t quite stack up.
Stallone is Ray Breslin a security expert whose job is to get inserted into maximum security prisons and then test their security by trying to break out. He’s asked to do the same for a secret facility where the government keeps the most dangerous people on the planet, who essentially need to be disappeared. However Ray won’t be allowed the back-up of his usual team.
He agrees but once he’s been picked up he quickly realises something is amiss and that while he is going into the prison, nobody expects him to ever get out and there’ll be no extraction. Knowing this won’t be your normal break-out Ray teams up with fellow inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to engineer a way out. It’s not going to be simple as the prison’s set-up is based on all the security tips Ray himself came up. Then there’s the head of the prison, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who has no compunction against using brutal violence or completely obliterating any idea of human rights to get his way and keep his prisoners exactly where he wants them.
It’s a bit of an odd movie, as it’s got the script of one of the endless throwaway straight-to-DVD action films that arrive in an endless parade. However instead of Steven Seagal and an array of people you’ve never seen before, the movie has Stallone, Arnie, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sam Neill, Vinnie Jones and Amy Ryan. It’s a better line-up than the movie deserves.
Escape Plan’s main problem is that it’s a bit difficult to care about anything that’s happening. The dialogue is dull and every time it tries to raise the stakes it just starts to seem increasingly silly. That’s certainly not helped by Jim Caviezel, who appears to be trying to be creepy and evil but mainly comes across as laughably hammy. It’s also a bit frustrating that sometimes when Stallone and Schwarzenegger are talking they could both do with subtitles. In all fairness though Arnie is surprisingly good and gives a better performance than you might have thought he could manage (that’s not to say it’s great, just better than usual) and he’s actually pretty funny.
The movie sets itself up as a sort of reverse heist film, and so much of Escape Plan relies on the escape itself. At the beginning there’s a scene showing how smart Ray has to be to get out of a normal prison, but when it comes to the ultra-jail it mainly seems to involve a lot of running, shooting and sheer dumb luck. I kept hoping it was going to suddenly reveal there was something really smart going on, but the few revelations Escape Plan offers are pretty underwhelming.
There’s just nothing to really hang onto. The action isn’t that exciting, the plot’s a bit silly, the look of the film attempts to be interesting but quickly becomes dull, and it goes on for about 20 minutes longer than anyone would ever want it to.
I kept wondering if originally Escape Plan was supposed to be something a bit more than it actually is, as there are occasional hints about the human rights abuses of the post 9/11 such a waterboarding and extraordinary rendition. There are also a few moments that suggest something interesting about men fighting back against a world that tries to control every aspect of their lives, but its feels like someone went through the script with an eraser to remove anything interesting, just leaving us with a pretty ordinary and unexciting action movie.
Overall Verdict: Only the presence or Arnie & Stallone differentiates this from one of the many lacklustre straight-to-DVD movies released every year. I also have a feeling it might have been a better movie if the two action legends had played one another’s roles.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac