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Escape Plan

USA 2013
produced by
Robbie Brenner, Mark Canton, Remington Chase, Randall Emmett, Kevin King Templeton, Brandt Andersen (executive), Alexander Boies (executive), George Furla (executive), Jason Gandhi (executive), Stepan Martirosyan (executive), Jeff Rice (executive), Zack Schiller (executive), Nicolas Stern (executive), Mark Stewart (executive) for Summit Entertainment, Mark Canton Productions, EFO Films, Envision Entertainment, Boies Schiller Film Group, Atmosphere Entertainment, Knightsbridge Entertainment
directed by Mikael Håfström
starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Matt Gerald, 50 Cent, Caitriona Balfe, David Joseph Martinez, Alec Rayme, Christian Stokes, Graham Beckel, Rodney Feaster, David Leitch, Lydia Hull, Eric R Salas, Brian Oerly, Jeff Chase, Christopher Matthew Cook (voice), Michael Papajohn, Jaylen Moore, Stephen Livaudais
story by Miles Chapman, screenplay by Miles Chapman, Jason Keller (as Arnell Jesko), music by Alex Heffes

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is an expert in breaking out of prisons - professionally, he and his partner Lester (Vincent D'Onofrio) run a business testing prisons regarding their escability, with Lester being the numbers man, Breslin the escape artist. Their routine is, Breslin gets locked up under an assumed identity as nothing but a normal prisoner, then tries to break out - and he succeeds every time. So he's asked by the CIA to test a maximum security prison that's located at an unknown location and is pretty much built for prisoners the gouvernment wants out of the picture without a trial, and always for life.

Once in prison, Breslin is quick to learn this prison is not what even he's used to, it's actually built according to his specifications as to what a maximum security prison is supposed to look like, only that the guards are brutal here and don't shy away from torture or even murder. And the warden, Hobbs (Jim Caviezel), is nothing but a cold and calculating asshole. But Breslin finds an unexpected friend in Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who seems to know more about Breslin than he lets on, and who helps him in planning his escape, but in return he of course wants to tag along. Rottmayer you see is of special interest to Hobbs, as he's said to know the whereabouts of an international "financier" the CIA wants to get rid of. So basically, Hobbs won't let him be killed before Rottmayer hasn't given up the location - but that doesn't mean he can't be tortured ...

Eventually, Breslin arranges to be locked in solitary, has Rottmayer create a diversion, and makes a first escape attempt through the air ducts - only to realise they're on a giant ship in the middle of the Ocean, and who knows in which Ocean. Now that's of course a set-back, but Breslin isn't one to give up, so he builds a sextant, then has a fellow inmate, Javed (Faran Tahir), tell on him in return for being allowed to pray under the stars - so that gives them the a rough idea where they are. And Breslin has also found out that the prison doctor (Sam Neill) is actually a sympathetic man - so he has him send a message to Rottmayer's outside contact - and then by creating a prison riot and Breslin's accumulated knowledge of the outline of the place, he, Rottmayer and Javed try to make an escape. But the cards are stacked against them pretty much from the get-go ...

Rapper 50 Cent plays one of Breslin's outside contacts, English football star Vinnie Jones the warden's most sadistic guard.

 

Back in the 1980s, when both Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were at the height of their action superstardom, the news about a team-up between the two would probably have blown up the internet (had it existed back then). In the 2010s, the audience response to the film was rather lukewarm - sure, it eventually made its money back and has a good afterlife on DVD, Blu-ray and digital, but an opening weekend of less than $10 million doesn't sound too exciting, nor does the fact that the two sequels went straight to video in most regions, including the US.

All that said, Escape Plan isn't at all a bad movie, it's story is well thought-through and structured, and its heroes use more brainds than brawns and are presented as anything but invincible and infallible, which makes them more believable and relatable. And the direction puts an emphasis on atmosphere rather than action - at least until the third act which turns into a somewhat disappointing (if well-staged) shoot-out that takes the film back into macho action flick territory.

Still, a rather decent movie that's not half as testosterone-driven as one would have expected from a Schwarzenegger-Stallone team-up but turns out to be a rather tense prison thriller.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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