Review: Escape Plan / Cert: 15 / Director: Mikael Håfström / Screenplay: Miles Chapman, Jason Keller / Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Jim Caviezel, Vinnie Jones / Release Date: Out Now
The Expendables franchise in 2010 gave action fans an orgasmic situation on-screen, the first meeting of '80s icons Sylvester Stallone and (then governor) Arnold Schwarzenegger in one scene… together. The 2012 sequel further expanded their screen time but never have the two shared one film entirely, until now. Escape Plan, despite a bland title, has a lot to ingratiate itself to '80s kids brought up on a strict diet of Cobra, Commando, Predator and First Blood. However, this film is not quite the explosive, balls-to-the-wall, all-out actioner many may be expecting and indeed those awaiting a grand Arnie vs Sly showdown may leave a touch disappointed. That being said, this action-thriller (with sci-fi elements) came to entertain and it certainly accomplishes that aim.
The story focuses on Ray Breslin (Stallone), a man who tests the security of prisons for a living. However, with a new ‘shady’ assignment he is offered the chance to test a whole new level of prison. Not too soon after, he is set up and imprisoned in a structurally sound complex known as ‘The Tomb’. In his attempts to escape, he must work with fellow inmate Swan Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and formulate a plan. The plotting, though smarter than the norm, is a little Lock-Up in nature.
There is no doubting that this film may have come 30 years too late to reach its full potential but as they say, better late than never. Though the action is not as plentiful as some of the stars' biggest hits, there are engaging thrills to be had and the comedic backbone is most welcome. Schwarzenegger looks to be having a ball in his part, dropping cheesy lines and chomping up the atmosphere. Stallone shows once again, for a fella his age, he has many rounds left yet and there are some surprising (and well played) appearances from the likes of Vinnie Jones, Curtis Jackson and Sam Neil, as well as a tie-strokingly over-the-top bad guy in the shape of former on-screen Jesus, Jim Caviezel. Everyone is having fun with the preposterous material and it's infectious.
In fairness, the action, though fun, could have been much better and the brief scrap between Stallone and Schwarzenegger is not the one fans have been eager to see all these years. Additionally the camerawork occasionally vibrates too vigorously during the fight sequences, meaning some aspects are hard to fully take in. Håfström directs with a firm touch and one machine gun scene in particular plays on Arnie’s cinematic reputation. Even so, there is a feeling more could have been done with Escape Plan (formerly The Tomb but renamed– perhaps to avoid jokes regarding the leads' respective ages).
Escape Plan is not as playfully knowing as The Last Stand or as action-packed as Bullet to the Head but it's entertaining and it utilises its leading men’s macho chemistry (ironic considering their off-screen past) to a good effect. It may not be art but when Arnie pronounces, “You hit like a vegetarian”, I doubt anybody will be crying over not getting the film equivalent of a Monet. Good Saturday night, '80s saluting, fun.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10