21 October 2013


It's not unfair or unkind to say that the first fully-fledged team-up movie between Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger is at least a decade too late. Also, while Escape Plan has an interesting premise, it's not the most unique vehicle that these two action icons could bring to the screen. Despite being a decade late and a dollar short, it's a question of whether or not the film coasts on actually being better than the trailers make it look.

There's still that premise though, which seems to have altered slightly since the project was first announced. Ray Breslin has spent most of his adult life in jail- not as a con, but as the world's best prison escape artist, testing prison security for the federal government. His skill set has made him a millionaire, but he's still tempted by a lucrative offer to test out a high-tech, privately-owned facility. It soon becomes clear that the company has no interest in seeing if Breslin can actually get out, and he finds himself trapped in the most impossible prison on the planet, with none of his usual resources available to help him escape.

The high concept script, by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, is right in Stallone's wheelhouse, giving him a brainy protagonist who can still thump the shit out of someone if needs be. There's also a handy lack of logic surrounding some of the plot's more convoluted twists and turns. Put simply, this is a Stallone film straight out of the 1990s, when he was making films like Demolition Man. Having a team-up with Schwarzenegger is the kind of thing that would have set it apart- similar to that joke about The Internship, this is the biggest action movie of 1993.

Surprisingly, it's Schwarzenegger who brings most of the appeal, as well as his somewhat diminished star power. His performance as Emil Rottmayer, the inmate who tips this into buddy-action movie territory, is his best since before his days as the Governator. At risk of repeating myself each time he's in a new movie, he's not best known for his skills as a thesp, but if this role wasn't written for him, it sure as hell seems like it was. He yells, he throws out one-liners and, in one amazing scene, acts like he's losing his goddamn mind.

So much of the "geri-action" subset is about nostalgia for the movies these stars were making in their physical prime, but you know what- it's good for the heart to see a full-on Arnie freak-out again. However, just as it was in Stallone's Expendables movies, the two don't have any real chemistry together. Someone seems to have got it into their head that we want to hear dry repartee when these titans of action cinema collide, but neither Stallone nor Schwarzenegger has the range for that, and nor is the script up to that level of banter.

One of their best scenes together is a fist fight, but not only because they're better with their fists than with their words. Certainly, the epithet "You hit like a vegetarian" is no better than their usual canteen banter in the rest of the film, but the fight ends in an unexpected gag, with some Arnie screams thrown in for good measure. The rest of the cast is pretty eclectic, from Jim Caviezel and Sam Neill to Vinnie Jones and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson. The difference makes you realise that Neill needs to be on screen more, and that 50 Cent is about as convincing as a tech geek as Rainier Wolfcastle was.

Not to use this film's neck as a soapbox to whinge about the geri-action trend, because this is actually one of the better examples, along with Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand, but if those two films are the peak, then the bar simply isn't set high enough. Why haven't any writers come along with an Unforgiven, or even a Gran Torino, that's tailored for these stars? At the moment, these films only give off the impression of having cast the older stars because the next generation hasn't yet produced any action mega-stars of a similar calibre, with the exception of Jason Statham. In an age of combining old things to make a new thing, it seems even harder for new action stars to break out, (no pun intended.)

The most anti-climactic thing about Escape Plan is how little curiosity it has about the potential of a Stallone-Schwarzenegger team-up. There's nothing in here that could only have come from these two stars, together at last, despite Arnie's best efforts to holler and quip his way through it. Although the plot is interesting, the story becomes nonsensical, and while this is more fun than something like The Expendables, that may only be because there's no mass confusion about how seriously it's taking itself.

Escape Plan is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Escape Plan, why not share your comments below? If you'd rather wait for the DVD, this should whet your appetite nicely.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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