My wife can’t stand Sylvester Stallone. Hates the way he looks, hates the way he talks, and hates the predictable turn most of his movies take. She represents a large group of people who harp on the guy’s faults, and I am not here to argue that those faults do not exist. I am just here to say they mostly don’t bother me when Stallone is put to use in a movie that is best suited to his particular strengths. Escape Plan, much like the abysmally boring ‘Bullet to the Head’ is not one of those movies. Stallone’s co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger said it best in the movie at one point when his character looks at Stallone’s character and basically says “You don’t look that smart.” And that is exactly the problem. Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a man who makes his living by breaking out of prisons to help the department of corrections strengthen their overall security. He can memorize routines, and think up of ingenious escape methods (the kind of stuff that would make MacGyver go huh?) all with seemingly just a moment’s consideration. To believe that Stallone, or at least the Stallone persona that we’ve all come to known and sometimes love over the past few decades would be capable of mental gymnastics of this caliber is, simply put, laughable. To have Sly and Arnold portrayed as indestructible physical supermen at their age stretches the limits of credulity enough. To portray them as mental giants, just flat obliterates it altogether.
The basic story of this movie is that Breslin, after breaking out of his latest prison, is contacted by a woman at the CIA who wants to set up a super secret prison to help “disappear” really dangerous people. Breslin, who takes about five seconds to consider this insane offer, of course agrees. This prison was built using his famous manual on prison security as a handy dandy reference guide and is said to absolutely escape proof. (Of course with how relatively quickly Breslin starts picking holes in his own system once he’s inside, you have to wonder how sound his original manuscript was in the first place.) Since it is the CIA though nothing is as it seems and the whole deal turns into a double cross. Breslin is now actually trapped inside this “escape proof” prison with no support from his usual outside allies. He now must rely on one single inside contact who basically forces himself upon him once he enters the prison complex. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Emil Rottmayer, who basically plays Morgan Freeman’s roles as the “guy who can get things inside” from Shawshank redemption. Together Breslin and Rottmayer must plot to outsmart the diabolical prison warden Willard Hobbes played by Jim Caviezel.
To his credit Caviezel, who once upon a time before he agreed to play Jesus in a Mel Gibson movie, was a rising star in Hollywood, plays a really great smarmy villain. He does everything in this movie to make you hate him short of putting on a monocle and letting out a hearty belly laugh. Other actors in supporting roles here include 50 Cent who plays Breslin’s computer expert in another piece of odd miscasting. Sam Neill stars as the prison doctor in a role that is so thin and such a blatant piece of plot construction (why the CIA would employ a man with such good standing morals and loose lips is beyond me…) that it evoked a hearty belly laugh out of me. Amy Ryan plays Abigail Ross, another of Breslin’s support group, and I think is supposed to be his daughter from what I was able to overhear in between snores. She basically just plays the worrying wife role in this movie and doesn’t add or take away anything from the overall movie. Vincent D’Onofrio stars as Lester Clark, one of the executives at Breslin’s security company, and the other primary villain in this movie. He’s barely in the movie except to have a brief scene with 50 Cent and to get his comeuppance at the end of the film. Vinnie Jones stars as Drake, the evil prison guard/henchman for this diabolical plot. He does a fair enough job basically lampooning some of his past roles. At least someone was having fun here.
The big selling point of this movie is that it is the first movie to feature Sly and Arnold together in two major co-starring roles. This might have been a big deal twenty years ago (Okay, nevermind the “might have” there…) or even perhaps now had the two of them not been in the Expendables franchise together, but right now this just feels like another empty nostalgia project along the lines of ‘The Last Stand’ or ‘Bullet to the Head’… On top of that, it is a prison movie, which aside from rare exceptions generally don’t do good box office. Hell, Stallone already did a prison movie back in the early 90s that was a flop, so you’d think he might have learned his lesson there. The two mega stars do exhibit good chemistry here in as much as you can tell that they are real life friends, but that chemistry is far from enough to save this sinking ship, which considering this prison is located on a moving ship, is quite the unintended pun if I do say so myself. Anyway, onto the conclusion.
Unless you are a die-hard fan of either of the main actors here I would absolutely advise you to skip this movie. This is a movie that takes no chances to escape beyond the thin walls of its utterly boring and predictable story. Stallone and Arny are clearly just cashing a paycheck here. There are some entertaining moments in this movie such as Arnold going absolutely bonkers in one scene in solitary confinement that I really dug, but I assume they will make it to YouTube before all is said and done. There is a subplot involving an arab prisoner here who gets to go out in a blaze of glory for ‘Allah’ that was shocking to see in an American action movie, but I’m not so sure that’s exactly the kind of audience pleasing scene that people who go to this kind of movie are really going to want to see, for better or for worse. That’s all for this review. In the end, my biggest regret was that I did not escape ‘Escape Plan’…
Escape Plan gets a two out of five: FORGETTABLE.