In the past few years action heroes from the ’80s and ’90s have been pushing for career resurgence. Due mostly to the nostalgic charm of The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have fought their way back to the action movie forefront. In 2013 the men who made Rocky and the Terminator icons teamed up to share leading roles in Escape Plan.
Large and menacing, Ray Breslin (Stallone) looks like the typical maximum security prison inmate. What makes him different from his fellow orange jumpsuit-clad prisoners is that Ray is voluntarily incarcerated. He’s the world’s foremost expert on prison security spending his time going into prisons to discover their weaknesses and then break out. When he is approached to test a prototype facility constructed to house the baddest of the bad, the world’s worst criminals, Ray doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. But this situation is far different from any he has previously encountered. Ray’s team will have no information regarding their boss’ location in the off-the-grid prison called The Tomb. Once there Ray realizes that his carefully constructed cover is actually a disguise orchestrated by someone who wants him imprisoned for the rest of his life. Ray grudgingly befriends fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) while formulating his escape plan in a desperate, vengeance fueled bid for freedom.
At first glance Escape Plan appears to be just another action movie in the currently popular subgenre of aging heroes fighting against retirement or the less exciting role as the boss instead of the instrument. What makes this movie different from Stallone’s 2013 Grudge Match or Schwarzenegger’s 2013 The Last Stand is that their age is hardly a factor. Escape Plan could have easily cast Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson as Ray and Emil. That’s not to say the audience won’t notice the deepening lines in their faces or half-step slower pace of their gait. The lack of old guy jokes is refreshing. Schwarzenegger and Stallone even poke fun at dumb, strong man archetypes by telling each other that they don’t look that smart while crafting a plan to escape the revolutionary high-tech prison.
What also makes Escape Plan better than the average action flick is the high tension woven through the movie. This isn’t like Stallone’s action-comedy escape movie Tango and Cash of the late ’80s fare. As soon as Ray is taken into custody and flown in a drug induced stupor to The Tomb, he knows he’s in serious trouble. This place isn’t like the maximum security prisons he’s been in before, this place is hell on earth. Filling in that tension are frightening performances by Jim Caviezel as Warden Hobbes, a meticulous psychopath who delights in his job and Vinnie Jones playing the head guard with sadistically violent rage, a man as dangerous as the convicts he is charged with keeping in line. The odds are stacked high against them, but hey, it’s Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger!
Escape Plan is a great choice for action movie aficionados. It blends the high-tech intelligence of the Bourne series with Arnie and Sly’s standard rock’em sock’em fare. It’s rated R, has a run time of 115 minutes, and was directed by Mikael Håfström, written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, with story by Miles Chapman. The movie also stars Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Special features include audio commentary by Håfström and Chapman and “Executing the Plan: The Making of Escape Plan” featurette. It can be found at most stores for about $15.