Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel
Genre: It has Arnie and Sly in it, enough said!
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a man that has literally written the book on escaping from even the toughest of high security prisons. When offered twice his usual steep salary to escape from a brand new and apparently inescapable prison in a secret location, he accepts but then once in there discovers that (surprise surprise) he has been set up. What makes matters worse is that this underground super prison is designed by a warden (an extremely stoic Caviezel) that has read Breslin’s book very closely. With the help of a fellow inmate who seems very keen to get to know Breslin, Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), Breslin is forced to use all his experience and cunning to pull of his greatest escape yet as well as getting to the bottom of the truth.
I think it is best to face facts; when a film has a plot such as this and stars thespians such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Vinnie Jones and 50 Cent then it provides immediate expectations that anyone with even the slightest amount of film knowledge will instantly have in their mind. In what could be described as the film’s prologue, we see what Ray Breslin does as he nonchalantly escapes from a supposedly high security prison and then smugly explains to a confused generic prison warden and us the audience how he did it. This sets the tone; a non-cynical and unpretentious testosterone driven romp with ludicrous plot developments that are often sheer bloody luck disguised as our protagonist’s genius. Thankfully it is a standard that is well and truly maintained throughout the narrative.
After the too serious and less than subtle rubbish that was Bullet to the Head, it is good to see Stallone in more subtle tongue in cheek Expendables form, providing a likeable, albeit ridiculously laughable protagonist. For example, how he figures out the location of their prison is an example of pure audacity/genius/bollocks that in some ways defines the entire tone of Escape Plan. In what may be the only film we ever see these two action film demigods in the two leading roles (and therefore one to saviour for that reason alone), Arnie is happy to be a supporting player but gets a good share of the cheesy lines. It is obvious from the off that the pair of them are having tremendous fun, and therefore it is surely impossible for the audience not too as well? They both look ridiculously old, especially Arnie with his grey main of hair and goatee making him look like John Hurt on steroids, but that only adds to the fun.
Providing a perfect antidote to the ageing masculinity is Jim Caviezel’s soft spoken but deadly serious sharp-suit-wearing warden. It is a performance that though perhaps follows all the bad guy clichés, but he pulls it off extremely well. Vinnie Jones is just Vinnie Jones, and 50 Cent is of course rubbish, but thankfully hardly in it. Solid support is also provided by Sam Neill in a minor but vitally important role.
As the already ludicrous premise becomes even more ridiculous, and despite the 115 minute running time, for me the pace never lulls. This is a film and cast that are very self aware, and Escape Plan is very much all the better for it. After some of the awful and complacent action films that the likes of Bruce Willis has churned out this year, it is good to see Arnie and Sly reminding us just how fun cinema can be. Also how much they will be missed when they inevitably stop making these films.
Considering its cast and story, Escape Plan is a film that is everything it should be. While most certainly never being an unforgettable deep and meaningful masterpiece, it knows its place and only embraces that to be an extremely enjoyable and watchable testosterone driven romp. If viewed with the appropriate expectations, Escape Plan will not disappoint.