Director: John Herzfeld
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Max Zhang, 50 Cent, Jamie King, Devon Sawa, Harry Shum Jr., Russell Wong
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 4 July 2019
If you’ve seen ‘Escape Plan 2: Hades’, you’ll know why this movie is being sold simply as ‘The Extractors’, rather than being associated as the third chapter of the franchise. Yet ironically, its merits are most apparent when compared against its predecessor, which literally lost the plot amidst a frenetic patchwork of half-baked ideas and poorly executed set-pieces. Indeed, to director and co-writer John Herzfeld’s credit, his film is a noteworthy improvement in almost every respect, even though it is really at best a serviceable direct-to-video title.
Series stalwart Sylvester Stallone returns as Ray Breslin, the head of a security firm which specialises in maximum-security prisons, who is forced to confront the sins of his past when the son of his former business partner comes looking for revenge. Those who remember the first ‘Escape Plan’ will know that Breslin had locked said partner in a container on board a MSC cargo ship, and his aggrieved son Lester Clark Jr. (Devon Sawa) has now kidnapped Ray’s girlfriend Abigail (Jaime King). So, as he did in ‘Escape Plan 2’, Ray calls upon his former associate Trent DeRosa (Dave Bautista) for help, this time in breaking into an old prison in Latvia where Abby is being held.
Wait, doesn’t that sound like Ray is breaking in, instead of breaking out, of the prison? Oh yes, there is no escape plan so to speak, given how Ray isn’t the one being imprisoned unlike in the last two movies; in fact, besides Abby, the one who actually needs an escape plan is Daya (Melise), the daughter of tech billionaire Wu (Russell Wong) whose company technology was used by Lester’s father to design the illegal black-site facilities. Lester and his associates (Daniel Bernhardt and Jeff Chase) have also kidnapped Daya, and are demanding a hefty ransom for her return. Luckily for Daya, she has her former head of security Lu (Max Zhang) and her current one Bao (Harry Shum Jr) to come to her rescue.
That is plenty of setup to get through, and the first half doesn’t see much action while Herzfeld assembles the various pieces of the plot in place; notwithstanding, Herzfeld keeps things humming along efficiently, building up the anticipation surely and steadily till Breslin, Lu and Trent actually hit the ground. The other half of the movie is essentially structured around three extended fight scenes – one with Bautista versus Chase, one with Zhang versus Bernhardt, and one with Stallone versus Sawa – that allow each one of the actors to showcase his respective moves; and of them, it is probably not much of a surprise that Zhang’s mano-a-mano is the most impressive of them all.
While it may have started as a vehicle for Stallone to team up with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone was hardly the draw for the previous sequel, and the same can be said here. Granted that Stallone is much more involved in this movie than he was in the previous, the real star here is undoubtedly Zhang, whose agility, ferocity and precision is exhilarating to watch. We wish Zhang were given more time to kick butt, but his introductory scene, as well as that which he goes up against Bernhardt, will leave you in awe. On the other hand, Stallone gets a knife-fight and a punch-fest at best, both of which are clearly designed with the actor’s age in mind.
Frankly, the ‘Escape Plan’ movies were never intended to be more than well-made B-action thrillers, although the last sequel was probably an F-grade movie for that matter. Even with a long (and we mean, really long) list of producers, ‘The Extractors’ was made on a smaller budget than the first movie was, and that is pretty apparent in the choice of locations as well as the settings themselves. And while we’re hoping for more Zhang action, there is no denying it delivers some satisfyingly hard-hitting fights for its fans. This is as good a note as any to end the series, so let it be notice to the producers that there is absolutely no need to go about making a fourth ‘Escape Plan’.
(Max Zhang steals the show from Sylvester Stallone in a sequel that redeems the series from its risible second instalment, but is really no more than a well-made B-action movie)
Review by Gabriel Chong