Director: Mikael Håfström
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Amy Ryan, Vinnie Jones, Faran Tahir
Rated R | 115 Minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Directed by Mikael Håfström (The Rite), Escape Plan stars Sylvester Stallone as Ray Breslin, co-owner of Breslin-Clark, a security firm that specializes in testing the reliability of maximum security prisons.
Breslin spends his life breaking in and out of prisons. He studies their designs and the guards’ habits to find and exploit weaknesses in the system.
After his most recent breakout, Breslin and his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) are approached by CIA agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) to infiltrate a top-secret prison to determine if it’s escape-proof.
Under the guise of a terrorist named “Portos,” Breslin is locked up in the Tomb – a futuristic prison with glass cells and creepy guards straight out of THX-1138. It doesn’t take long for Breslin to realize he’s been double-crossed. Someone wants the former escape artist to disappear for good, buried in the Tomb with the rest of the world’s most dangerous men.
After a few days of casing the joint, Breslin meets inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and together they hatch a scheme to escape the hush-hush techno-prison and the machiavellian Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel).
Had Escape Plan played in a 42nd Street grindhouse back in 1975, it would now be a cult classic in the vein of Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 or John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13. It’s your standard prison break flick with a twist. You wouldn’t call it science-fiction (like Fortress, Stuart Gordon’s sci-fi prison flick), but Håfström’s film takes a note from Roger Corman’s playbook by making a futuristic action movie that deals with deeper social issues in the subtext.
Yes, you read that right – I’m talking about social commentary in a film that stars Cobra and Commando. The Tomb is comparable to Guantanamo Bay detention camp or a CIA black site, an off-the-books compound where people go to never been seen again.
There are no rules in the Tomb. Warden Hobbs tortures Rottmayer at one point, waterboarding him to get information about the inmate’s boss, Mannheim. Like Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race, the film also deals with the privatization of prisons and expounds on possible ways the United States will deal with prison overcrowding. The revelation of the Tomb’s location is too good to be spoiled here, but suffice it to say it’s a rather creative answer to our country’s prison problem.
I’m not saying Escape Plan is some philosophical treatise on the current state of the United States legal system – just pointing out that, like most great B-movies, there’s more going on beneath the surface. Still, there’s plenty of ’80’s-style action and crowd-pleasing moments that nod at both Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s cinematic past.
Stallone goes punch for punch with a prison guard (Vinnie Jones) in a homage to Rocky while Schwarzenegger mows down bad guys with a minigun Terminator 2: Judgment Day style. For what it’s worth, this is the best Stallone has been since Rocky Balboa – and the best performance Schwarzenegger has turned in since 1994’s True Lies.
In comparison to this year’s disappointing action offerings – A Good Day to Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down – Escape Plan is a pleasant surprise, a return to old school action that knows precisely what it wants to be and who its audience is. Escape Plan is what the Expendables series should be – but those movies are more concerned with guest stars than story.
Escape Plan doesn’t aim high, but it delivers ’80’s popcorn entertainment for those looking for a momentary break from the never-ending gauntlet of superhero movies, apocalyptic disaster flicks, and young adult adaptations.
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