***1/2 (out of 5)
October 18, 2013
Sylvester Stallone as BRESLIN
Arnold Schwarzenegger as ROTTMAYER
Jim Caviezel as HOBBES
Faran Tahir as JAVED
Amy Ryan as ABIGAIL
Sam Neill as DR. KYRIE
Vincent D’Onofrio as LESTER CLARK
Vinnie Jones as DRAKE
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
BY KEVIN CARR
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I grew up in the 80s, so actors like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were staples in my movie-watching activities. They were the top box office draws, and they defined a generation of tough guy action heroes.
Both have disappeared from movies for a while, with Arnold going to the governor’s mansion in California and Stallone emerging only to make good sequels in the “Rambo” and “Rocky” franchises. Both of them attempted a comeback earlier this year, Arnold in “The Last Stand” and Stallone in “Bullet to the Head.” Both films bombed pretty hard, which is a shame, because they were quintessential films for the stars.
Thank god they still have “The Expendables” to keep them in the limelight.
Now, they’ve teamed up as buddy cons in “Escape Plan.” This never happened in the 80s, and while the actors are long in the tooth and past their physical prime, it’s still a hoot to see them together on screen.
“Escape Plan” tells the story of Ray Breslin (Stallone), a man who makes his living breaking out of prisons to test their vulnerabilities. He is approached by the CIA, asking for his services to infiltrate a maximum security, off-the-books prison that is supposedly inescapable. Once Breslin is dropped in there, he soon realizes that his protection is gone and someone wants him to disappear. Soon, he befriends another inmate named Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), and together they hatch a plan to escape.
Stallone is no novice to prison movies, having done the decent 1989 exploitation flick “Lock Up.” However, the presence of Schwarzenegger softens the movie nicely. Stallone’s films tend to be overly gritty and sometimes too serious. Schwarzenegger brings the fun to the picture, which gives the dueling stars a nice balance.
Make no mistake: “Escape Plan” is a preposterous film. It’s a ludicrous plot with ridiculous events happening. Jim Caviezel plays the typically insane warden who has it out for Breslin. We’ve seen this character before, and Caviezel doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the role. Still, he works in the film as the villain and offers a less-physical foil for our heroes. Of course, any physical action slack from Caviezel is picked up by Vinnie Jones as the typically evil and abusive guard.
The rest of the cast is actually pretty impressive, especially for what amounts to a mid-list action movie. Amy Ryan and Vincent D’Onofrio play some of Breslin’s team back home trying to track him down. Sam Neill makes a surprising appearance as the prison doctor who is concerned for his patients. The only real weak link in the cast is the awkward placement of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as the brains behind Breslin’s operation. (Sorry, 50… putting on a trendy hat and slick glasses does not automatically make you a brilliant tech master.)
Having grown up with the action movies of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, “Escape Plan” was a real treat. It was nice to see the guys back in action, and it reminds me of what popcorn movies were made of. Before every release had to make $50 million to $100 million just to break even, the multiplexes were filled with these movies. They were a bit disposable, but that didn’t mean they weren’t a hell of a lot of fun.