Saturday, April 1, 2017

Movie Reviews: Escape Plan

Escape Plan
directed by Mikael Hafstrom
This 2013 release was a solid action movie that was, strangely enough, the first to feature eighties action film icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger as co-leads. This film is something that really would have been better made in the eighties during both men's salad days. It says something perhaps not so good about the crop of current Hollywood action heroes that I can't immediately think of anyone younger than Sly and Ah-nuld  (besides Mark Wahlberg) who could have given this film the sort of testosterone heavy swagger that its two leads attempt to bring across. The leading men aren't as believable in these roles as they would have been thirty years ago but who else could be cast in these parts?

They may be past their prime physically but each actor brings a sense of gravitas and well, masculinity, that is needed for these characters. Stallone mumbles and Schwarzenegger smirks but what else is new. The story is almost painfully paint by numbers predictable but that's okay for these types of films. You don't watch a film like this for its engaging and surprising story line. You watch to see the put upon heroes struggle, be betrayed, almost fail and then rise above it all to deliver some truly righteous a$$-kickings. And this movie delivers in that regard. And when is the last time you heard Schwarzenegger give extended monologues in his native German? And they even made sense for the story. Schwarzenegger looks like he's having more fun than Stallone throughout the film.

Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a former prosecutor who has somewhat implausibly become a prison security expert. He goes undercover at various maximum security prisons, where apparently the inmates and guards somehow never recognize him, to test their weaknesses. His goal is to break out and thus help the prison system overseers eliminate any flaws. Obviously since Breslin is a "good guy" he likes to escape without killing anyone. You might be asking why anyone in their right mind would go undercover in vicious maximum security prisons where brutality is the name of the game but Breslin has his reasons. And they aren't just that he's well paid. Approached by a CIA agent to test the efficacy of an off the grid black prison Breslin agrees to do so over the objections of his associates Hush (50 Cent) and Ross (Amy Ryan). But Breslin's business partner Clark (Vincent D'Onofrio) is all for the idea. Things start going wrong from almost the beginning. The affably evil warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel in what I presume is a shoutout to the English philosopher) and his brutal top guard Drake (Vinnie Jones) run a horrific prison in which torture, beatings and sensory deprivation are regular occurrences. They also remove Breslin's tracking device so that no one on the outside knows where he is. And Clark doesn't appear to be too pressed about finding Breslin.  

If Breslin doesn't know where he is and his friends don't either then it's going to be next to impossible for him to get out. Breslin's only hopes on the inside are a smug, enterprising and positively chatty inmate named Rottmeyer (Schwarzenegger) and a world weary doctor who might be looking to show some remorse for immoral activities (Sam Neill). 

But Breslin is nothing if not resourceful. He's not just a musclehead. And neither is Rottmeyer. This was fun if you're in the mood for such a thing but it is nothing you haven't seen before a million times. And that even includes the inevitable one liners and catch phrases. The film mostly avoids the unpleasant implications of having secret prisons or the fact that almost by definition the people who tend to staff prisons aren't very nice people. And that is how society wants it.

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