Film review: Escape Plan
Richard James Havis
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
This clunky but enjoyable action thriller brings the two box office kings of 1980s Hollywood, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, together for an energetic prison escape drama.
The finer details of the plot of Escape Plan are unfathomable, and the situations demand even greater suspension of disbelief than most Hollywood action movies. But its two main stars, who were derided in their heyday for their wooden acting, have acquired a weatherbeaten charm over the years and now seem charismatic compared to bland contemporary A-listers such as Channing Tatum. The film's only big letdown is that the duo are on the same side, and so don't face off in the hoped-for Rocky versus Terminator kind of way.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a muscular and smart escapologist used by the US government to test the security of its prisons. Breslin is dumped in jail incognito and has to figure out a way to escape, which he always does. Until, that is, he takes the job of testing a new maximum security prison run by a contractor, the cold and mean Hobbes (Jim Caviezel).
Breslin soon finds out that the location of the prison means his usual escape routines will not work, and realises that he's been set up. He bonds with fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), and the two develop the escape plan of the title.
Much of the time it looks like director Mikael Hafstrom is making it up as he goes along. The story follows no logical plan at all. Why is Breslin set up? Who knows? Why is Rottmayer really inside? That's not made clear.
Why are the duo allowed to discuss their escape plans for days on end in the prison canteen of what is purported to be the world's most secure prison? Probably because they need to tell viewers what is going on so they can actually follow the story.
Does all this matter? Not as much as you'd think, because watching these ageing action heroes go at it with gusto is a lot of fun. It's even more amusing when you remember that the guy spouting insults in German is actually the real-life former governor of California.
What's more, the scriptwriters have imbued the characters with qualities from the actors' famous films. So Stallone, always the masochist, takes a lot of physical punishment, and Schwarzenegger gets to let rip with some big machine guns.
Stallone was considered a bit of a lunkhead in films such as Rambo, but the 1997 drama Cop Land showed that there is a genuine actor beneath that bulky frame. His ability to make you root for him, even in the most unlikely situations, saves Escape Plan from total disaster.
Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, continues to ham it up, but looks like he's having a lot of fun - and that enjoyment rubs off on the viewer.
Escape Plan opens on November 7