Escape Plan (2013)
If you are over a certain age, there will be certain actors, TV shows and bands that you’ve grown up with and always enjoyed. Let us consider for a moment the latter. The Stranglers will be playing at the Looe Music Festival in Cornwall on the 23rd September. They’ve been touring and producing albums for nearly forty-five years. The majority of the audience who attend their gigs will be long term fans and they’ll not be there in the hope of hearing a bunch of new material from the latest album. No, they want a concert filled with familiar tunes and greatest hits. I'm pretty sure that is what they will get as well. Escape Plan is the cinematic equivalent of this. A movie that is driven by its two leads and tailor made so they can give their fans exactly what they want.
On paper Escape Plan is the sort of movie that may have gone straight to video, if it had been made in the eighties. It has a very black and white plot scenario, with a clear three act story structure. The set pieces drive the narrative forward and there’s plenty of boxes ticked. What elevates this formulaic piece of genre cinema is the presence of its two stars, Stallone and Schwarzenegger. I cannot stress how much this is a piece of entertainment whose success hinges upon your personal connection both actors. For some this movie will be like putting on a comfortable pair of old shoes or having that special meal that you always have, when you go to your favourite restaurant.
Security specialist Ray Breslin (Stallone) breaks out of prisons for a living. He is offered a job by the CIA to test a new top-secret facility but soon finds that he has been set up and trapped. Forced to team up with fellow prisoner Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), Breslin treads a fine line as he attempts to learn more about his surroundings, whilst having to contend with vicious guard Drake (Vinnie Jones) and prison warden William Hobbs (Jim Caviezel). During the two-hour running time there is much fist fighting, improvised "A" Team style device manufacture and hard-boiled dialogue. The prison production design is visually impressive and adds an innovative element to the traditional plot. There's a nice cameo from Sam Neil as the prison's Doctor. We also get to hear Arnie talking in his native tongue which is most discombobulating.
Director Mikael Hafstrom manages to strike the right balance between the light banter of his two stars and the dramatic intensity of the third act. The interaction between Stallone and Schwarzenegger is very organic and they carry the movie through their personal chemistry. There are a few clever nods to the eighties and homages to both stars earlier works. Overall it doesn't seem too forced. This is where the movies strength lies. If you look beyond its high concept foundation, then it is a rather well made but ultimately standard action movie. Returning to my band analogy, the same can be said about many famous songs by high profile artists. When analysed out of context they’re often far from exceptional. But when performed with enthusiasm by those who wrote them, they become something far more sublime. Escape Plan does pretty much the same.