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Stallone, Schwarzenegger make 'Escape Plan' fun

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At the age of 67, you would think Sylvester Stallone has covered every facet of the action film genre that contains even the smallest bit of a premise. The same could be said for fellow action hero and Stallone’s long-time rival Arnold Schwarzenegger. After all, the two biggest action stars of the 1980’s have pretty much seen it all and done it all. Sometimes, the results have been monster successes (Rambo, The Terminator), other times they’ve been box office disasters (Judge Dredd, The Last Stand).Photo: Alan Markfield

 

Well, the longer Stallone and the Governator are making movies, the more you find out that there’s actually still more ground to cover- including a feature film starring both of them. Which brings us to Escape Plan, the long-overdue, first time prominent on-screen pairing of the stars (Schwarzenegger had an uncredited cameo in the original Expendables and a brief cameo in The Expendables 2).

 

In the film, Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a former lawyer who now works for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Breslin specializes in escaping out of correctional facilities in an effort to improve their security loopholes. Whether he notices a lack of guards on the premises or needs to acquire cell lock combinations by using a laminate found in a carton of chocolate milk, Breslin will find the deficiencies and eventually make his getaway.

 

In a nutshell, Breslin has the art of jail breaking down to a science. So much to the point where he wrote a book on it. So after breaking out of his 14th prison, Breslin and his crew (played by 50 Cent, Amy Ryan and Vincent D’Onofrio) are approached by the CIA, who offer Breslin $5 million to break out of a new, privately funded creme de la creme of maximum security prisons. This operation is so covert that the CIA won’t even let Breslin be monitored by his team.


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Despite the grave concerns on behalf of his peers, Breslin agrees to the operation. However, the proposition turns out to be nothing more than a set up, and Breslin finds himself incarcerated in a high-tech prison (complete with masked guards) in the middle of nowhere at the mercy of the subtle yet ruthless warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel- Person of Interest). Breslin soon makes friends with inmate Emil Rottmayer, (Schwarzenegger), who instantly picks up on the fact that Breslin is not your average con. When Hobbes notice the two have struck up a rapport, he blackmails Breslin for information regarding the motives of Rottmayer during his incarceration in exchange for his freedom. At the same time, Breslin faces his toughest task yet: having to break out of a maximum security prison (one that was indirectly inspired by his own design) before Hobbes uncovers his agenda.

The great detail used to describe the intricate layouts of certain prisons make the premise for Escape Plan an interesting one. For a while, the movie relies on Breslin’s intellect as much as it does action. The movie is entertaining and for the most part doesn’t drag on longer than it should. Director Mikael Hafstrom does an effective job of balancing drama with some well-delivered banter between Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

While Stallone’s Breslin is primarily focused on his freedom while occasionally delivering one-liners every now and then, it opens the door for Schwarzenegger to shine in the role of Rottmayer- especially during the scenes where he is forced to act like a distraught German while Breslin attempts to detect some flaws in Hobbes’ infrastructure.Is it your ideal pairing of what you would expect a Stallone and Schwarzenegger movie to be? No, but in some ways that’s a good thing. The interplay between the two isn’t forced and you never get the impression that the two actors are past their prime and are just a bunch of aging stars going through the motions.

Despite some of its guilty pleasures, that’s not to say Escape Plan doesn’t have its share of holes. The motives for Breslin doing what he does is only briefly revealed halfway through the film and it makes you wonder if it was even needed to be addressed. Moreover, the transition from some jailhouse violence to full-on bloodbath at the film’s climax is rather abrupt. Despite the choppy transition, fans will be rewarded with plenty of gratuitous action scenes with Stallone and Schwarzenegger (one notable slow-motion scene involving Schwarzenegger that had the crowd in an uproar) that for a moment, make you feel like it’s 1987 all over again.

Better late than never.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: Alan Markfield