Was there any greater dream of the 80s action movie fan than seeing Arnie and Sly team up in the same movie? Aside from perhaps appearing in an Arnie or Sly movie yourself, the answer is no. While we had a few close calls in previous decades, with JCVD popping up in Last Action Hero, and various in jokes between Stallone and Schwarzenegger in a number of movies, it wasn’t until The Expendables that those dreams came true. Unfortunately, Arnie was still in politics at the time, and not free for a large role – the same can be said for the sequels. Finally, Escape Plan came along – a fully fledged tag-team between the two titans. While not exactly having the balance of buddy-cop movies of the 80s where two stars would have equal billing and screen time, this is a Stallone led vehicle with Arnie providing stellar support – is it worth the wait?
Well, it still would have been nice seeing the duo together at their peak. Here, the elder statesmen of neck-snapping quips play aged, experienced battlers who are thrown together in a novel twist on the ‘Die Hard in a boat/house/plane/prison’ genre. The film centres on Ray Breslin (Stallone), a security consultant who, in convoluted Mission Impossible style, is hired by corporations to test the security of prisons – namely, how easy or difficult it is to escape from them. Going undercover as a prisoner, he works out an Escape Plan, and always succeeds. When the CIA offer Breslin a massive amount of money to test a new State of the Art prison, Breslin is suspicious but accepts – the twist being that none of his colleagues can know where he is going. A high concept idea to be sure, but one which leaves plenty of room for smart action and ridiculous solutions to absurd problems – good fun.
Without spoiling too many of the twists and double-crosses involved, Stallone is held by a dastardly warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), hounded by guards and prisoners alike, and strikes up an uneasy partnership with prisoner Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger). Breslin must use all his experience to try to escape, but who can he trust? We get various scenes of Breslin pushing and probing with inmates and workers, with his cell and surrounding security systems, and he gradually chips away at the prison until cracks start to show, and the overall puzzle begins to piece together.
Unlike most of the other Stallone renaissance films, this one is fairly light on action, and with a heavier focus on plot and tension. Although we have the two greatest action movie stars in movie history teaming up, we have a stellar supporting cast with Caviezel, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, and even Vinnie Jones and 50 Cent putting in decent performances. While not exactly The Shawshank Redemption, and while we always feel that Stallone will get free and wipe out the bad guys, it’s good fun trying to work out how he will get to that point. The last twenty minutes or so contain most of the action as Stallone races against the clock to get free and dispatch the bad guys via good old fists and gunplay. Aside from that, we get an occasional scuffle in the prison as the various groups of inmates and guards clash. The story and the performances are engaging enough that we don’t miss the action, and when it comes it is effective and worth the wait.
As mentioned, this is a movie which fans of the central stars will relish. There may be disappointment from some fans that the action levels aren’t high, but this should please most viewers like myself who grew up on Terminator and Rambo. There may not be too many quotable lines or memorable kills, but it’s a glossy, well made, and well acted movie, perfectly enjoyable throwaway stuff which is still welcome even it arrived a couple of decades late.
Have you seen Escape Plan? How do you think it fares against other recent Stallone and Schwarzenegger films, or do you think the pair are past it? Let us know in the comments!