ESCAPE PLAN Movie Review: Will It Be A Breakout Hit?


Before it was ESCAPE PLAN, it was called "The Tomb" but the title could easily have been "Terminator v. Rocky."  ESCAPE PLAN is the first film to feature both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in starring roles and, though it has some issues, it also demonstrates some great moments of self-awareness, leveraging its powerhouse leads to great effect and providing a few surprising twists.

ESCAPE PLAN follows Ray Breslin (Stallone), an expert in field testing the nation’s toughest maximum security prisons to find their weaknesses. He co-owns Breslin-Clark, a security firm where Breslin truly throws himself into his work-submitting to incarceration and maintaining a cover identity while using his expertise to escape. Early on Breslin-Clark is made an offer, or rather financial backer/partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), can’t refuse: double their normal fee for an off-the books CIA mission to break out of an inescapable prison known as ‘the tomb.’ Breslin-Clark employees Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson) don’t like it, and with good reason: their normal internal methods of tracking and supporting Breslin while on the job are dispatched early on, leaving Breslin without his ‘get out of jail free’ card.  Watch Trailer

After a somewhat stilted and unimpressive start, the film picks up speed once Breslin arrives at the prison and meets Warden Hobbes, played masterfully by Jim Caviezel. Every action movie needs a believable opponent for its heroes and the calculated inhumanity of the prison’s design is effectively mirrored by the Warden, hence, raising the stakes. Breslin is going to need help if he’s to make it out of the tomb alive.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone on the ESCAPE PLAN Red Carpet

Enter fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to help even the odds in exchange for getting to join Breslin on his planned escape. Once the two leads join forces, the action quickly becomes the kind of one-two punch that helped make Stallone famous. Even the screenplay seems to stand up and take notice of Schwarzenegger’s entrance, picking up enough to subvert some audience expectations of the genre. Genuine surprise is not something that one expects when watching a film like this, but its there. Around the same time the film broadens to include solid supporting performances from Sam Neil as the prison’s doctor and Faran Tahir as an antagonistic inmate.

All those things still wouldn’t add up to a satisfying action film were it not for the apparent delight both Stallone and Schwarzenegger take in working together. In many scenes, Schwarzenegger looks as if he can barely restrain his glee at playing the funny man to Stallone’s hard-jawed hero. You can’t help but smile along with him and start rooting for both men to make good on their escape. Breslin’s MacGuyver-like ingenuity in noticing and exploiting the cracks in prison security are increasingly creative. Director Mikael Håfström demonstrates full knowledge of movie-goers’ investment in the body of work both leads represent, using their box office battles of yesteryear to greatest effect. This is a good action film, made even greater by the expectations its viewers will undoubtedly bring to it.

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