It seems there’s a new trend in Hollywood to give aging, or should I say, veteran, actors a chance in the spotlight again. It’s something that I’m totally for, but unfortunately the results so far haven’t been all that great. There have been a few exceptions, of course, but for the most part these movies have all fallen short and left fans disappointed.
But Escape Plan does the exact opposite. Sure, it’s still a mindless action romp with very little depth, but it gives its stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger the opportunity to finally make a movie together that actually reminds us what made them famous in the first place. Escape Plan isn’t a great film, but it is a wildly enjoyable one.
The film’s premise is simple and requires little energy to follow, which actually works in it’s favor here. Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, a man who has literally made a career from breaking out of the most secure prisons in the country. But when he accepts a multimillion dollar offer to test the security of a top-secret prison designed for the world’s most renowned criminals, things go horribly wrong.
The plot moves at a brisk pace, and never dwells on any one thing for too long before quickly switching gears. It gives the movie an impeccable sense of energy that really draws you in, and while it does run a little long, there wasn’t a single moment where I wasn’t involved with what was happening on screen.
While the first twenty-minutes or so focus entirely on setting up Ray and his team, which does deliver a particularly exciting introduction, it’s when Ray finds himself trapped within the off-the-grid, maximum security prison that things really kick into high gear. Especially when Ray crosses paths with Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer.
Schwarzenegger is easily one of the most renowned action heroes out there, and while some of his more recent flicks have missed their mark, Escape Plan seems like a return to form for him. His character Rottmayer is both a familiar and different role for Schwarzenegger, and it provides him with the perfect opportunity to show off his natural wit and charisma while also dominating in the action scenes.
Ray Breslin is a perfect fit for Stallone as well, and while he’s not quite as fun as Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer, I still quite enjoyed seeing him continually find ways to break out of even the most protected of prisons. Stallone delivers his lines with the same deep monotone we’ve come to expect from him, but I wish we could’ve seen him do something more.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Stallone, because I most certainly did, but I can’t help but wish he had been given something more original to do here, rather than just repeat the same basic performance we’ve all come to expect from him. The film does hint at some depth for Ray, but it’s never fully developed and feels more like a side-note than an important aspect of his character, which is disappointing.
With all that said, the real star of the film might just be the villain of the piece, Warden Willard Hobbes. Played by Jim Caviezel, who I’ve always been a big fan off, Hobbes is a gleefully twisted antagonist with an obsessive need for control that runs in stark contrast with his quiet demeanor and impeccable sense of taste in suits.
Caviezel dominates nearly every scene he’s in, and his whispered threats and shocking acts of interrogation often sent chills up my spine in the best way possible. My only complaint is that we didn’t get to see more of him in action. If anyone watches Person of Interest, then you know Caviezel can more than handle himself in a good fight scene, and I was disappointed we didn’t get to see more of that from him here.
However, his moments with both Stallone and Schwarzenegger definitley help make up for the lack of a proper showdown between them, as each encounter is just dripping with suspense. There’s one scene in particular between Hobbes and Rottmayer that was so perfectly set up that the tension leading up to it had me on the very edge of my seat.
Escape Plan is a great action movie, and I loved how it gave its three main actors ample room to demonstrate what makes them such great action heroes. However, I found some of the supporting cast to be lacking. Ray’s team in particular seemed almost tacked on, and did little to support the film outside of rambling off exposition.
Some of the other inmates locked away with Ray and Rottmayer fare better, as Faran Tahir gives a decent performance that provides him with some fun scenes, especially his stand-off with Rottmayer that quickly lead to an exciting prison riot. Vinnie Jones also performs well as Hobbes head of security, with the highlight being his brutal fight scene with Stallone that was a joy to watch.
One of the things I admire most about Escape Plan, however, is the way it handled its plot. It knows that it’s a mostly brainless action flick, and doesn’t try to do anything other than entertain. The few plot twists that are there aren’t shocking, but act more like pleasant surprises that just make a fun movie even funner and leave a smile plastered across your face.
I did, however, have a few problems with the realism in the fight scenes. Yes, I know this is a movie, but at the same time, I tire of action scenes that rely on guns with an infinite amount of ammunition, and I think I would’ve enjoyed the climax a little more if they had our heroes reload their guns just once. A minor complaint, but still something that could’ve been easily fixed.
Escape Plan was a ton of fun to watch. I enjoyed almost every moment with it, even with its several flaws. Sure, the plot may be simple, and the secondary characters flat, but this is a movie about our lead characters, and in that regard it more than succeeds. Stallone may not have done anything unique, but both Schwarzenegger and Caviezel gave great performances that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
If you’re in the mood for a good, old-fashioned action flick, than I can’t recommend Escape Plan enough. If you set your expectations accordingly, and make sure you’ve got plenty of popcorn to go around, I think you’ll have a lot of fun with this movie. I know I did, and fully intend to add it to my collection in the near future.