Film Review: Escape Plan 

Try as it will, this jailbreak flick just can’t escape the action tropes of the ’80s

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Escape Plan | C+

Is there really a demand for these ’80s-style “geri-action” flicks? Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, once box-office rivals, join forces to reclaim their he-man status with a ridiculous jailbreak blow-’em-up that’s as disposable as The Expendables movies but with a little more smarts.

Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a prison consultant who makes his living escaping from maximum security penitentiaries, thus exposing their vulnerabilities. The film’s opening is an elaborate demonstration of his … ahem … skills, which seem to be a mix of exploiting system weaknesses and unbelievable luck. It’s a reasonably fun sequence that suggests Escape Plan will unfold like a Ocean’s 11-style heist in reverse.

No such luck. Upon returning to civilian life, Ray is hired by a shadowy intelligence agency to test out their new black site prison, a privatized detention center that houses the world’s most dangerous criminals off the grid. Once there, however, things don’t go as planned. Ray is double-crossed and soon finds himself under the thumb of a sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel). Before you can say Expendables 2-1/2, our brooding hero is befriended by Swan Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), a brainy inmate who helps him concoct his escape plan. This mostly means starting cafeteria brawls and staging random slugfests in order to get sent to solitary.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger have just enough laid-back chemistry to overcome Escape Plan’s awkwardly scripted dialogue, with the grinning ex-governator delivering a far better performance. He’s clearly having a good time and even gets to ham it up in German. Sly, on the other hand, dials in a low-energy performance that can be generously called brooding. He’s dull and lifeless, garbling his smart-speak to the point of incomprehension and substituting studious stares for character development.

Luckily, the supporting cast, which includes such vets as Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio and Amy Ryan, brings things up a notch. Vinnie Jones is miscued as a hyperventilating thug, but Caviezel’s soft-spoken bad-guy makes for a nice contrast to his musclebound foes.

You can’t help but get the feeling that screenwriters Miles Chapman and Jason Keller imagined a very different set of actors for Escape Plan’s puzzle-solving hero and criminal mastermind. Their script is a bit on the dopey side — the second act is particularly repetitive and lifeless — but there are a few good ideas and set pieces. Director Mikael Hafstrom tries to convince you that the film is a lot smarter than it is, but when the third act explosions and gun battles finally erupt, everyone seems to finally admit that the movie is just another hackneyed rehash of every ’80s action movie cliché you’ve ever seen — bad one-liners included.

 

Escape Planis rated R and has a running time of 116 minutes.

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