‘Escape Plan’ is fun as all get-out
Had Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger joined forces in the early 1990s, they could have handily obliterated the box office with a maelstrom of machine-gun fire, brawn and one-liners (as well as the occasional guttural yell).
Better late than never, although that box office stubbornly remains intact.
All the same, director Mikael Håfström’s “Escape Plan” is fun as all get-out — pure throwback entertainment that’s unapologetic in almost every sense.
While Stallone attempted to define throwback with his hit-or-miss labor of love, “The Expendables” series, also featuring Schwarzenegger, “Escape Plan” marks their first team-up that isn’t painfully self-referential. It doesn’t wink at their obvious aging or even reference their iconic catchphrases from films past. It’s an action movie, plain and simple, and these two know their stuff.
Stallone (“Rocky”) is Ray Breslin, the world’s foremost escape artist, who’s made a living breaking out of prisons, thus exposing their weaknesses to the U.S. Department of Justice and making a pretty penny in the process.
Following his most recent escape, Breslin and business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio, “Men in Black”) are approached by the CIA for a rather unconventional job. Breslin would be hired to escape from a privatized, maximum-security, “shadow” prison — a place governments or the highest bidder would send people they’d prefer disappear altogether. Furthermore, Breslin’s team would not know his whereabouts, nor would they be able to track him.
Always up for the challenge, Breslin agrees. He’s given a false identity and, shortly thereafter, is brutally apprehended, waking up in a state-of-the-art prison that he realizes has been built based on his own design standards and recommendations.
After meeting the sadistic warden, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel, “The Thin Red Line”), Breslin realizes he’s been set up, that’s someone has paid to have him “disappeared.” This emboldens him all the more, and he promptly gets to work on a new escape plan.
But he’ll need some help. Enter Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger, “Predator”), an Austrian detainee with similar determination and an amusing penchant for pissing people off. Naturally, the two become fast friends and resolve to work together to earn their freedom. But, as they soon find out, this prison — nicknamed “The Tomb” — is unlike any other, and it’ll take the most ingenious of plans if they’re to make it out alive.
As such, director Håfström (“1408”) delivers an entertaining prison-break movie that doesn’t disappoint, especially for fans of the genre, Sly and Arnie. Computer-generated effects are kept to a minimum, with Håfström and company relying more on traditional stunts and physical set-pieces, making the proceedings all the more tangible, even if they’re not quite realistic.
And for a straight-up action movie, “Escape Plan” features some fun little twists, made all the more so by its superb casting, including Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park”) as a prison doctor and Vinnie Jones (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) as, of course, a malevolent guard.
Schwarzenegger himself takes a more humorous turn as Rottmayer, who revels in toying not only with his fellow inmates, but also the warden. Balancing out the dynamic, Stallone effectively plays it straight as the no-nonsense protagonist.
Is it perfect? Hardly. Are there cheesy one-liners? Plenty. “Escape Plan” is par for the course, but what a refreshing course to play — one that’s not built on “reboots,” “reimaginings” or anything else with that all-too-common prefix. It’s a celebration of old-school action, comfortable R-ratings and pure escapist entertainment.
“Escape Plan,” rated R for violence and language throughout, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.