Arnold and Sly finally find time to team up to break out of jail in Escape Plan. But can these two uber-stars of yesteryear still go toe-to-toe with the new action kids on the block? Or is it better to leave Stallone and Schwarzenegger rot in prison? 411's Terry Lewis finds out!
Sylvester Stallone - Ray Breslin Arnold Schwarzenegger - Emil Rottmayer Jim Caviezel - Willard Hobbs Vinnie Jones - Drake Sam Neill - Dr. Kyrie Amy Ryan - Abigail Ross 50 Cent - Hush
A dream cast pairing is not often seen enough in films, despite it being very open to do so. Still arriving about 10 years too late probably, I was still stoked to see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up on their own for the first time. Backed up by a ridiculously fun cast, I had high hopes. However, the confines of a Prison break movie in Escape Plan does hinder your enjoyment of seeing these titans of action movies have an otherwise decent team up.
Ray Breslin (Stallone, Bullet To The Head) is a professional prison escape artist, charged with testing prisons to see how escape-proof they are. Following a set code, Breslin has a massive success rate and owns his own security company with a support team to assist in his work. One day, he’s charged with breaking out of an “off the books” international jail but essential information where the location is withheld leaving Breslin stranded and cut off from the rest of his team. Under the watchful gaze of cruel Warden Willard Hobbs (Jim Caviezel, Person Of Interest), Breslin teams up with the only inside man who can help him escape - Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger, The Last Stand).
I must say whoever casted Escape Plan deserves a big bonus since everyone in the supporting cast is ridiculously entertaining. Caviezel is pure awesomeness as the subtlely evil Warden who doesn’t want anyone messing up this super secret prison. So suave and charismatic, he nearly steals the film from under Sly and Arnold’s noses. Two nice surprises were in Brit hardman Vinnie Jones (last notably in Elementary) and Sam Neill (The Hunter) as Hobbs’ head henchman Drake and a prison doctor respectfully. Whilst Neill merely moves the plot forward towards the end in an okay outing, Jones gets to go one-on-one with Sly in an enjoyable but far too quick fist fight after being kept off screen and not given many lines for most of the runtime. The most notable aspect of the whole cast though is Curtis Jackson to his mother, 50 Cent (The Frozen Ground), turning up and being the least obnoxious he’s ever been in a role as a computer hacker.
But you don’t want to know about these jobbers! How do Sly and Arnie match up together on their own finally in Escape Plan? Good, very good. There’s a natural rapport between our geriatric duo which propels the plot along nicely and the script appeals to our audience perceptions so I felt right at home with their dialogue. Would have been nice for some puns though – the fun swearing is fine but there’s no killer put downs. Stallone is the more capable of the two, doing more action scenes yet you still feel he’s playing the same role of his recent film work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that and that’s what I wanted here – an archtype Stallone role given the circumstances. I was going to say that Schwarenegger feels at times he’s not one of the main two actors but that thought gets washed away by the epic action packed ending involving him, an army of goons and a belt fed machine gun. It’s a bit obvious that he’s not in the same shape to do anything too action-riffic compared to Stallone though. The scenes where he’s going off on one in German is hysterical though.
However, the setting and concept of a prison break movie to honour this fantastic tag team outing is a little cliché. I wanted more being honest. As an excuse for them to meet in Escape Plan, it’s serviceable but given who we’re dealing with here, I wanted a cry back to the epic plot of the 80’s and 90’s. It feels like treading water for Stallone and Schwarz where this should be a vehicle for Steven Seagal or Stone Cold Steve Austin. The big twist of where the prison is unoriginal but pretty cool, although it’s easy to work out and it’s half given away in the trailer if you keep your eyes peeled. Makes all the effort of suspense worthless really, which give the filmmakers credit they did a good job of.
Action-wise, well it picks up towards the end with a vastly refreshing traditional shoot out on the surface. It does remind you of the two’s action career peaks actually with some terrific OTT violence. There’s some impressive stunt work with Sly in a flooding pipe chamber, given the guy’s age. If you’re after that Arnold/Sly punch out brawl, you won’t get it here. There’s a nice exchange but it’s over way too quickly. Overall, Escape Plan falls down a bit here. Apart from the finale, it definitely relies on the dialogue exchanges and the team up, instead of any intense epic action sequences.
The 411: At the end of the day, I genuinely enjoyed finally seeing the Sly and Arnold tag team on the big screen, even at this stage of their careers. Yet I was left yearning for them to have been given the full hog and involved in an action masterpiece because there’s not really much else to get excited outside of the cast. Poor plot, simplistic situations and absconded action does not make an action film which can hang with the young bucks of today. Escape Plan will be remembered as the favourite granddad that gives you $10 every time you go round and that’s the only reason you go round there for.