Director: Mikael Håfström
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jim Caviezel, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D'Onofrio, Amy Ryan
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://escapeplanmovie.com/
Opening Day: 24 October 2013
Synopsis: One of the world's foremost authorities on structural security agrees to take on one last job: breaking out of an ultra-secret, high-tech facility called "The Tomb.” Deceived and wrongly imprisoned, Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) must recruit fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to help devise a daring, nearly impossible plan to escape from the most protected and fortified prison ever built. ESCAPE PLAN is the first pairing of action legends Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in leading roles, and co-stars Jim Caviezel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio and Amy Ryan.
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger honestly deserve much better than we give them credit for these days. I mean how many of us can imagine ourselves at the age of 66 (that’s Stallone) or 67 (that’s Schwarzenegger) doing the kind of stuff that they are in their current movies? But no, it seems that all we want to see them do these days is poke fun at their old and aging selves - which admittedly accounts for much of the meta-humour in ‘The Expendables’ and ‘The Expendables 2’.
Incidentally, that Stallone brainchild was the first time the two Hollywood icons first teamed up on a movie together - well, to be more accurate, Stallone was the lead and Schwarzenegger was the special guest star who popped up now and then. As surprising as that may sound, ‘Escape Plan’ marks the first movie that gives both Sly and Arnold equal billing - and what do you know, as unlikely as that may sound, this straightforward actioner is actually a surprisingly enjoyable B-movie diversion that offers exactly the kind of thrills their best movies were known for.
The premise is straightforward on the surface. Sly plays the world’s greatest prison break expert Ray Breslin, who in the extended opening, is seen exposing the flaws in a maximum-security penitentiary using wadded-up paper and a milk carton’s wax lining. Fresh off that mission, Ray is offered a job by the CIA to test a state-of-the-art prison holding some of the world’s worst. Despite reservations from his associates (Amy Ryan and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), he agrees to take on the lucrative job and is promptly whisked away to that top-secret place.
It’s a facility like nothing he’s ever seen before. The cells are essentially glass compartments in a huge chamber. The lights are on 24/7. The guards don black Guy Fawkes masks. The isolation cells are blasted in bright light to keep the isolated warm and virtually blinded. Worst of all, the people that sent him there in the first place apparently intend to keep him there. That’s where Arnold comes in, playing a fellow inmate named Emil Rottmayer who forms an unlikely partnership with Sly to break out of their confines.
Easier said than done of course, and director Mikael Hafstrom engineers a couple of thrilling sequences that has Sly putting in place the various parts of his elaborate plan - including a standout one where he finally discovers the location of the underground dungeon. Even more impressive is the twisty script from Miles Chapman (who is also credited for the story) and Arnell Jesko, which offers up a fair amount of intrigue around Rottmayer’s identity - particularly as the well-attired, soft-spoken sadist Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel, TV’s ‘Person of Interest’) takes an especially keen interest to a certain contact he used to be in touch with before his incarceration.
Fans of Sly and Arnie looking for more familiar elements however won’t be disappointed. The stars swap plenty of amusing one-liners - including one of our favourites uttered by Arnold to Sly, “You hit like a vegetarian”. The fisticuffs come at a brisk enough frequency and are also often brutal enough to satisfy more hardcore action fanatics. And most importantly, it does end with a sufficiently over-the-top climax that has plenty of Sly and Arnie posturing much like the films they made in their heydays. Yes, it plays very much like an Sly and/or Arnie movie from the past, just with a few more narrative twists and turns.
Clearly relishing the opportunity to return to their unapologetic days of being an action star, Sly and Arnie seem pleasantly energised by the material. While he still puts on a trademark scowl, Sly is more expressive than his usual tough-guy routine, in no small measure also due to Arnie. Indeed, Arnie carries his role with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, at his jovial and jocular best especially in a key moment where he finally gets to cut loose in his native German, spewing a long rant that is so absurdly funny. Together though Sly and Arnie share a delightful rapport trading barbs and blows - the former especially in one brief sequence where they are sitting together devising nicknames for the masked guards.
As far as Stallone or Schwarzenegger movies go, ‘Escape Plan’ more than hits the mark as an entertaining old-school action movie that trades on brute force entertainment values. Rather than take the easy way out by relying on nostalgic appeal, here is a movie that is confident of standing on its own two feet and comfortable at winking at its audience at the same time. Yes, there is something positively spine-tingling watching Arnie fire off a huge-ass machine gun at his opponents, but that is exactly the sort of guilty pleasure which a movie like this promises - and delivers.
(Like the old-school thrillers from the past, this match-up made in Hollywood action movie heaven sees Sly and Arnie at their most unapolegetically - and effortlessly - entertaining)
Review by Gabriel Chong