Twitter Plot Summary: Set up and left to rot in a super prison, Sly joins forces with Arnie in order to break out.
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Key Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, 50 Cent
Five Point Summary:
1. Wait a minute… Sly’s supposed to be a smart guy in this one? Oh my.
2. Vincent D’Onofrio. I can see where this is going.
3. Jim Caviezel is a creepy presence as the Warden.
4. Breaking your own rules = recipe for disaster.
5. So that was basically Prison Break but with Sly and Arnie instead of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, right?
Ever wondered what it would be like to see Schwarzenegger and Stallone working together without the money-grabbing interference of Bruce Willis? Well then you should check out Escape Plan. Sly plays Ray Breslin, an expert in breaking out of prisons and improving prison security – he literally wrote the book on it. He’s asked to break out of a new, supposedly unbreakable prison but soon discovers that he’s been set up and has to work out how to escape without support from the outside. The problem is that this is no ordinary prison – inmates sleep in seethrough perspex boxes, they’re not permitted outside, and if they are insubordinate they are dumped into a box and blasted with hot lamps. Because the prison is off the books, there’s also no pesky Geneva Convention to prevent mistreatment of the inmates. Thankfully for Breslin he’s befriended by Emil Rottmeyer (Schwarzenegger) who helps him with his escape plan.
I was actually more interested in the supporting cast than the main performances from Stallone and Schwarzenegger. There’s not much I can say about these two – you know what to expect from their performances and they never reach above that expectation. Sam Neill and Jim Caviezel however are excellent as the prison doctor and the warden respectively, Caviezel in particular seems to be taking great delight in playing a man who is not entirely unlikeable, but is just on the right side of unpleasant for us to take a dislike to him. Neill doesn’t have much to do with his role but his weariness over the inhumane treatment of the prisoners does at least make him stand out. The fact he didn’t show up in any of the pre-release promotional material that I saw also made his appearance a pleasant surprise.
The set for the prison is actually rather nice – quite basic and yet a lot of effort has gone into making it look lived in and an unpleasant place to be. The same goes for the guards outfits – other than Vinnie Jones, the rest of the prison guards all wear identical masks, intended to prevent the inmates from differentiating between them. On the subject of Vinnie Jones, I’ve seen him do a few films now and, if directed well he can provide a half-decent performance. Here, he’s essentially The Juggernaut from X-Men 3 but without the silly outfit and muscles, and is appropriately two-dimensional for an action movie thug.
Given that the inmates of the prison are supposed to be the lowest of the low, the baddest of the bad, this angle was never covered in any great depth. I would have much preferred the prisoners to have a much more sinister vibe to them. Instead, it just feels like any other prison-based movie/TV show we’ve ever seen. More violent/unpleasant personalities within the prison would have helped it stand out. Attempts are also made to ensure that Muslims are not shown to be as villainous as some elements of society would have you believe, which was a nice angle to take but again it wasn’t covered in sufficient detail for my liking. Only one Muslim character gets any dialogue or something meaningful to do, which is a step in the right direction but even with this in mind his fate is predetermined.
It’s big dumb fun with plenty of humour, explosions and general silliness, a full-on 80s action film 30 years too late. Still, it looks far better than the same material churned out by these two guys in the action decade, so at least in one respect they’re able to move with the times. I think unfortunately the whole concept of breaking out of supposedly unbreakable prisons has been ruined by Prison Break, where they did everything covered in this film but in a more interesting way and with a more relatable angle. The real draw though is the two leads, and that’s all their fans, myself included, needed to know about it. It doesn’t matter that the script doesn’t punch above its weight, it’s all about the silliness. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Favourite scene: Arnold screaming obscenities in German. Sehr gut.
Quote: “You hit like a vegetarian!”
Silly Moment: Arnold manhandles a MASSIVE gun.