Review: ESCAPE PLAN (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Review: ESCAPE PLAN (2013)

While the action is mediocre, ESCAPE PLAN manages to be different than your average Stallone/Schwarzenegger action-movie vehicles: a thinking man's prison thriller blessed with a clever script.

Sylvester Stallone is no stranger when comes to prison genre. In 1989, he done it before in LOCK UP. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger had done it as well, albeit brief, in 1987's THE RUNNING MAN. Now imagine both of them are put together in a prison. Definitely a cool idea since we are talking about Stallone and Schwarzenegger in one movie. If this happens in the '80s or the '90s, such superstars combination will guarantee a sizable box-office hit. But it took them more than a decade that they finally shared equal screen credits together (no, their brief appearances together in the two EXPENDABLES movies doesn't count) in ESCAPE PLAN.

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a professional escape artist who specializes in testing the reliability of maximum security prisons. He does so by getting into prisons and studies everything from their designs to the guards' routines, and finally make his way out with little problems. When he and his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D'Onofrio) agree to a multi-million dollar deal offered by CIA agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) to test a top-secret prison, Breslin figures it's just another job as usual. But things goes awry when Breslin is captured into the van at New Orleans where his captors extract the tracking microchip from his shoulder and drug him down.

Once the drug wears off, Breslin finds himself waking up in a glass cell where the entire design of the unknown prison's location is different than the usual. As he tries to study the prison, he meets inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and both of them agrees to help each others out to stage a daring escape. But the escape is not as easy as it seems, especially when Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel) always keeps a watchful eye for the both of them.
With the familiar prison genre convention, ESCAPE PLAN could have gone the usual action-movie formula populated in the Stallone/Schwarzenegger movies. But kudos goes to both director Mikael Hafstrom and screenwriters Miles Chapman and Jason Keller for going the different route. Instead, the entire movie spends more time on developing the plot which focuses more brains than brawns. It's something like the TV's Prison Break and you'll get the idea.

It's refreshing to see Sylvester Stallone flexes his acting muscle especially the way he uses his brainy skill to stage his prison escape rather than the other way round. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the meantime, returns (almost) on form with his lightweight performance as the wisecracking prison inmate. It's always fun to see him quips with one-liners, while he and Stallone are good playing off their roles against each other like old friends. But despite the highly-anticipated duo of Stallone and Schwarzenegger acting together, it was Jim Caviezel who steals the show as the sinister and sharp-looking Warden Hobbs.

I love the way Stallone explains the aftermath of how he stages his prison escape in a detailed manner.
Clocking at nearly two-hour length, there are times the pacing of the movie feels labored. And despite its smart script, it's quite a shame that director Mikael Hafstrom doesn't cares so much on staging effective action sequences. Most of the fistfights, like the one Stallone going against Vinnie Jones' prison guard character, are disappointingly shot in tight closeups. While Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Caviezel have their fair share of acting moments, the same cannot be said for the rest of the supporting actors such as Amy Ryan, Vincent D'Onofrio and Sam Neill, who are all wasted with their thankless roles.

While ESCAPE PLAN is hardly the kind of Stallone's and Schwarzenegger's larger-than-life combo that I believe most die-hard fans are expecting from them, it remains an overall good entertainment if to compare with their recent individual outings (Schwarzenegger's THE LAST STAND and Stallone's BULLET TO THE HEAD) in the past few months.