Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a professional escape artist; he tests prison security systems by infiltrating the prison, then escaping. When he is offered the chance to break out of the world’s most high security prison, Breslin jumps at the chance – and the fee – but it is not long before he realises that he has been set up.
The one thing that is worth bearing in mind, when watching Escape Plan, is that this is a Sylvester Stallone film, which co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, so if you go in expecting a smart thriller with some moderate action scenes, then you are going to the wrong film. Stallone plays a familiar character; a man wronged, who must find his way back to the life he cherishes, and he does it well. Stallone is not an actor known for his subtlety, so action, not emotion, is the name of the game here. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Breslin’s accomplice and friend on the inside; both actors have some truly awful lines, but the worst of them fall to the former Governor. The good news is that he seems to enjoy a trite script and delivers his lines with aplomb.
Jim Caviezel – remember him? – plays prison warden Hobbes, and rarely is there a piece of scenery left unchewed when he is on screen. It is clear that the former Christ takes great pleasure in playing the villain, but he camps it up so much that, at times, it is hard to believe that this man would be left in charge of a cat, never mind a maximum security prison. Sam Neill turns up as prison doctor Kyrie, and does not have a whole lot to do. The same goes for Vincent D’Onofrio, whose turn here does little to cleanse the palate of his terrible, hammy performance in this year’s Fire With Fire. Vinny Jones also turns up, playing a thuggish thug, as usual. Hey, you have to hand it to the guy, he has found his niche, and he is sticking to it.
Screen writers Jason Keller – known for Mirror Mirror and Machine Gun Preacher – and Miles Chapman – in his first big screen outing – have written a script that is so filled with cliché that it is often laughable. The dialogue feels like it was lifted from a James Bond film that was written – and rejected – in the 1980s, and the set up for the break out is so needlessly complex that it often leaves the audience wondering what the heck is actually going on.
Director Mikael Håfström has done both horror films – The Rite, 1408 – and thrillers – Derailed – but Escape Plan never lives up to the tension highs that it sets itself. Instead, the film is filled with odd camera angles – including an amazingly over the top shot of Schwarzenegger through the blades of a helicopter – over the top acting and Stallone and Schwarzenegger trying to do their best not to be acted off screen by Caviezel; an odd, and often unintentionally funny combination.
Escape Plan is a throwback to the cheesy action movies of the 1980s with a villain and score to match. Stallone and Schwarzenegger do what they do best – and to be fair, they manage to make the film watchable – but the rest of the film is so over the top, and filled with horrible one-liners, that it is hard to believe in any of it, even for a second. Not that the film is not entertaining; it is, just not for the reasons you would hope.