Escape Plan is a surprising movie in a lot of ways. Considering that it’s the first true pairing of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger as leads it’s not a film carved from the same material as the bulk of their action work. It’s a talkier and brainier effort that is low on action for much of its running time. It’s far from My Dinner With Andre but it allows two performers who have been relevant for nearly five decades to defy the monosyllabic stereotypes attributed to them.
It’s also surprising in its casting. Genre films are usually built around the leads and villain and rarely are the margins filled with the likes of Amy Ryan, Vincent D’onofrio, and Sam Neill. It’s also an action movie that embraces its R rating not in sex and gore but in embracing the profanity that is so much a part of the prison experience. An odd bird but not one without its charms.
Stallone is Breslin, the best there is at breaking out of prisons. He’s written the book on security. Literally. After showcasing his skills in an opening scene prison break Breslin and his security team is contacted by a government firm about a new secret prison and they’re offered the biggest deal they’ve ever had. Before moving forward I must mention that this crackerjack team is comprised of Stallone, Amy Ryan, Vincent D’onofrio, and 50 Cent. Seriously. That alone is worth the admission price.
Of course it’s bogus and of course Breslin is thrust knee-deep into chaos.
Luckily the film really finds its way once Arnold enters the picture. Perhaps it’s the fact that both actors had very solid genre efforts this year (A Bullet to the Head, The Last Stand) or perhaps that in their elder years the experience trumps the muscles but the results are mostly positive. It’s not that well shot, there are no set pieces of repute, the film’s body count goes from minimal to way too many in the last act, and the logic of the whole thing is fragile at best but those two actors are a pleasure to watch together.
Audiences have grown accustomed to action films wholly built around big spectacle and hyperkinetic editing. This has none of that. Nor is it as well written as many of the more clever genre entries in recent memory. What it has is two truly legendary cornerstone performers having fun together and occasionally getting a good one-liner in. If that’s enough, Escape Plan isn’t a horrible two hour mission.