Film review of ‘Escape Plan’: A Sly slammer flick to escape from at all costs
For a star-vehicle boasting not one but two action legends – and offering two hours of high-concept macho entertainment set in an Escher-like super-prison – Escape Plan is a disappointingly mellow watch. A thriller with such a title ought to channel at least a sense of its one obvious leitmotif: claustrophobia. No dice. Instead it almost puts you to sleep by peppering an ultimately preposterous plot with the most clichéd scene-closing one-liners this side of Schwarzenegger’s political ambitions. If Håfström (Derailed) demonstrates one thing here, it’s that shooting a male-only cast of peeved beefcakes trying to think their way out of prison only goes so far towards creating a vibrant film.
While it’s aesthetically problematic that the colour palette only varies its incessant monochrome when the denouement (conveniently) avoids a cathartic inferno, Escape Plan still puts Stallone’s recent and moronic Bullet to the Head (2012) to shame. At least the premise of Escape Plan is not half bad.
Stallone plays the uncommonly gifted ex-lawyer Breslin, whose job involves going undercover in prisons to test their security by trying to break out of them. With the plot monotony still to come, the first few minutes crackle by showing one of Breslin’s Houdini-like acts, which the filmmakers can be forgiven for romanticising in the interest of entertainment. Having never once failed, shortly thereafter Breslin accepts the suspiciously lucrative challenge to escape from ‘the Tomb’: a futuristic, off-the-grid facility that resorts to torture and psychological terror in the case of revolt.
As soon as Breslin arrives, something seems off. The orgy of violence to which he’s immediately treated wasn’t in the contract, and no ‘I-give-up-release-me-now’ password achieves anything.
Enter Emil Rottmayer (played by a relatively low-key Schwarzenegger), a fellow prisoner who seems untrustworthy and appears to know more than he lets on. But the Tomb’s vicious warden Hobbes (Caviezel) has designed the prison based on Breslin’s own guide to structural security, so on top of everything, and unaware of this fact, Breslin has to tackle his own ingenuity – from inside a cell of hardened steel.
Escape Plan (15)
Dir: Mikael Håfström; US action, 2013, 115 mins; Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson, Sam Neill, Vinnie Jones
Premiered October 17