Following the success of ‘The Expendables’ series, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger continue their gun-toting action film spree in ‘Escape Plan’. One of the better recent entries to the genre, this Mikael Håfström-directed offering supplies tension, violence and the wry one-liners now associated with Schwarzenegger.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is the renowned author of the definitive book on prison security and a Houdini-style structural-security contractor who specialises in entering maximum security prisons anonymously to then break out, thus exposing their deficiencies.
It’s a tough job but his skills are put to the test when the CIA enlist his services to test a new escape-proof facility for the world’s most deadly criminals. With the location and all other details off-limits for security reasons, Breslin’s team are dubious to accept. Stubborn, and encouraged by his financial advisor, Breslin agrees and is given a new background and identity.
With early parts of the assignment going awry, Breslin arrives battered and drugged to ‘The Tomb’, which surmises to be an illegal operation run by ex-military.
He begins to familiarise himself with the futuristic panopticon-style glass boxes and windowless design revealing no clues as to where he actually is. Par for the course are beatings from ominous uniformed black-masked guards led by the excellent Vinnie Jones as mercenary Drake.
After an encounter with the cruel, softly-spoken Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel), he realises he has been set up, and with his team in the dark, he has no chance of reprise.
It is here that German anarchist Emile Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) enters Breslin’s world as they strike up an unusual, unexplained and convenient friendship. An acquaintanceship with ‘the good doctor’ also proves to be paramount to survival.
Soon Breslin and Rottmayer meet every day, studying prison patterns and plotting their escape. Just as they develop a convincing rapport, so do the two actors. It’s a thrill to watch these 80’s action heroes on screen together for more than the few seconds provided on The Expendables.
With plenty of assaults, savagery and rioting as expected, Escape Plan does fall down in comic relief with Schwarzenegger providing tired and predictable guffes to counter balance Stallone’s sullen and brooding personality. However, he appears more energised and game for action than he did in The Last Stand, his first starring lead since leaving politics. A German speaking scene is especially note-worthy.
The plot line is steady with slight twists that tests Breslin’s intelligence and know-how, as well as his friendship with Rottmayer: “If we don’t get out of here, I will kill you.” Double-crossing is prevalent throughout the film, both inside and outside the prison, but the real surprise lies in who ordered Breslin to be put away and why.
And when a machine gun enters the foray, it’s like it’s the 80’s all over again. In the final moment Schwarzenegger remarks “I hope I never see you again”. Until The Expendables 3 that is.