Review: 'Escape Plan'

Unfortunately, expectations could not be lower for a film like "Escape Plan", efforts such as "The Last Stand" and "Bullet to the Head" have certainly seen to that. The underlying truth is that there are new action heroes for young people to savor, and everyone over a certain age doesn't even want to be reminded their childhood is long gone, filled only with wrinkles. That's a shame,  because "Escape Plan" is pretty watchable. Sure, it's watchable in a "Sunday afternoon on cable, accidentally stumbled upon it" sort of way, and no, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever (and why would you want it to?), but it's still a more fitting capstone to the prodigious careers of Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger than anything else attempted in the last decade.

One of the reasons that "Escape Plan" is so watchable is that we haven't seen this exact movie before (unlike sequels to "Rocky", "Rambo", "The Terminator", et al). For if there's been a movie about a guy who is an expert at breaking out of prisons, who then becomes embroiled in a global controversy surrounding an "unescapable" prison, well then I've never managed to see it. Stallone is Ray Breslin, a world-renowned consultant who specializes in finding the flaws in prison security. The film opens on Ray in prison, examining all the angles, pondering the layout as if he were a sage monk. Then, the breakout attempt! Generally prison escapes are solid fun on the big screen (much less so in real life) and this one is no exception. You root for Ray, even though you have no idea of the context. When it's revealed Ray is the "good" guy (spoiler alert?) we're along for the ride, and this is precisely when the CIA comes a 'calling.

Ray is presented with an offer. Gobs of money are thrown his way, all to test a security system that must not be compromised, because it is to hold the folks the US Government has deemed lethal, terrorists and the like, people who must be "disappeared". Ray, as a self-respecting patriot, accepts the job, and then things get out of control, Stallone style. The rest of the film is comprised of his unlikely pairing with a fellow inmate, Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), both attempting to breach a seemingly unbreathable prison, a sort of heist film in reverse. In terms of the cast, "Escape Plan" gets interesting with Jim Caviezel as prison warden Hobbes. Savvy film fans might remember him from "The Count of Monte Cristo", where, ironically enough, he was the innocent trapped against his will, a fall guy dropped into potentially lifelong doom. It's interesting to see Caviezel on the other side of the role, as the psychopath and captor, and he does nice work through the second half of "Escape Plan".

What "Escape Plan" has going for it is a real sense of momentum and constraint. Stallone and Schwarzenegger are asked to do far less physical work, which is great, because a little goes a long way on that front given both are pushing 65. The momentum comes from the constant sense of "how are they gonna get out of this one?", which flows naturally from scene to scene. There isn't a truly boring moment in the two-hour feature, nor is there anything massively cringe inducing al la "The Expendables". Though there is some camp, and a few moments of homage, they're handled tastefully, if such a thing is possible in a prison film starring workout kings.

Now to the logic flaws, which you'd expect, because any "actually unescapable" prison system would just hire a guard for every inmate and constantly monitor them (this would undoubtedly be the world's most boring job). Thus, the flaws that must be "exploited" by Ray and Rottmayer are completely forced, in the grand tradition of all "against all odds" sagas. There's also the question of the overall premise, because the way Ray breaks out of the first prison is absurd, there's just no way anyone else would come up with it. The tricked warden, in this case, should have just said, "Hey man, no one else is going to think of this. We're all good here." Another ding would be the overall lack of ambition, "Escape Plan" knows what it is and never deviates from the direction, and though this helps keep it on track, it doesn't really leave anything amazing to reflect upon. It is not exactly a film with staying power, a necessary evil where "limited scope cinema" is concerned. That aside, these issues that might arise with any thriller, there's not a whole lot to bicker about.

Really, although "Escape Plan" may not be a film you've got to be first in line for, it's nice to see the fellas starring in something not completely beneath them again.

SCORE: 6.8 / 10

Laremy wrote the book on film criticism and wouldn't last five minutes in prison.