<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Mikael Håfström. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, Amy Ryan, Faran Tahir
We’ve seen them together in The Expendables but head-to-head seems to be a dream that we’ve waited far too long to come true. Unfortunately, Escape Plan fails to break out of cliché and listlessness.
Even for us children of the 80s, the pairing of two of the greatest action heroes on the planet – Sylvester ‘Rocky’ Stallone and Arnold ‘Terminator’ Schwarzenegger – should be a time for rejoicing. And if you’re contented with just seeing these two screen icons sharing the same frame then you’ll be happy enough. Escape Plan doesn’t provide you with much of a plot or much fast paced action to call this an action film.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a security expert who makes a living breaking out of prisons to test their flaws for the government. Why would a man spend his life voluntarily in and out of prisons? Well a guy who escaped from prison murdered his family. So nothing overly complicated there.
Before you know it Ray Breslin is testing out a state-of-the-art prison for the CIA and in true Agency fashion he’s abducted and winds up in a glass box amongst some of the vilest villains on the planet, or so they tell us. We’ve seen far worse in dozens of other Hollywood films. Inmate Emil Rottmeyer, played by Schwarzenegger (with a goatee and far more fun than Stallone) befriends him. Together they must outwit the evil Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and break out. With the help of a Pakistani villain played by the becoming-very-popular guy to play and Indian/Pakistani in Hollywood: Faran Tahir
Then follows a series of very slow ploys to escape. Every time they want to get something done they have a fight in the mess. Wham and you’re in the box. Need to get a shiny round thingee to break loose some screws. Wham and you’re in the box. The first half is pretty much just that.
And all of a sudden, out of the blue, underrated actor Sam Neill shows up as a doctor who tends to Breslin’s wounds and is slowly convinced that he is a doctor who must follow his Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. Come on! Surely he knew what he was getting into before he signed up on this shady, off-the-radar prison camp. Just thrust in a scene showing him read medical ethics and he’s a turned man. Really?
There are moments of chemistry and the odd joke or two between Sly and Arnie that make you wish someone had thought of pairing them up 20 years ago and that they would have been okay to do that since they were technically competitors in the action genre. Now, they’re just too old (late 60s) and mellow and been-there-done-that to give us that adrenalin rush we expect from their dynamic duo. Individually we’ve seen them perform averagely in Bullet To The Head (with Sly) and The Last Stand (with Arnie, and the movie I prefer of the two).
The dialogue lets them down, as does the leaden pace and length of the film (2 hours). There’s just one moment where Arnie picks up a mounted machine gun from a helicopter and the camera focuses on his eyes as he pumps bullets into the bad guys that tells you which of these two actors is the true last action hero… and he’ll be back!