Release Date: 18th October 2013
Running Time: 115 mins
Director: Mikael Håfström
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones
At last! Two titans of 80s pop culture starring alongside each other in the same film. No, it’s not Roland Rat vs Ed the Duck (the wait continues); it’s Escape Plan, a preposterous jail-break movie starring noted painter Sylvester Stallone and former politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a jail-break master who is shipped from prison to prison with the sole purpose of exposing flaws in their security measures by escaping them. Having swiftly established his skills as an escapist, Breslin is approached by a shady CIA agent who recruits him to test out the security of the Tomb; a legally dubious international prison.
Inside Sly meets Arnie and discovers that the Tomb is completely corrupt. What’s more, he’s been double crossed and is stuck there with no failsafe option. Cut off from his support team and subjected to appalling treatment, Breslin must enlist the help of Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer in order to escape. Which is what he was supposed to do anyway.
With a ludicrous plot (Stallone’s job is crazy enough before his frankly ridiculous backstory is revealed) and a cast full of huge men and actors hamming up a storm; Escape Plan paints with broad brush strokes. There’s a villainous turn from Jim Caviezel as the evil prison warden which borders on parody. You can tell he’s evil because he’s constantly stroking things; himself, his desk, the head of a nearby minion. Vinnie Jones gives perhaps the most Vinnie Jones performance ever committed to screen as a domineering screw and Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson is a genius level computer hacker who works on Stallone’s team. Fiddy’s main purpose it seems is to pop up every now and then and spaff a bit about how high tech and top secret this jail is. If Fiddy can’t find it with his computer then it must be “off the grid”.
The prison itself is a weird sci-fi construction where prisoner numbers have been replaced with QR codes for some reason and guards all wear black porcelain masks like something from Eyes Wide Shut. With its floating cameras and cells made of glass cubes stacked upon each other, the Tomb resembles the old Saturday night game-show The Cube.
With a plot which manages to be both fiendishly complicated and utterly stupid at the same time, there’s a lot of fun to be had watching Escape Plan. It checks all of the boxes of a prison escape film: smuggling things down the trousers; makeshift equipment; prison brawls to distract the screws; but also throws in some unexpected elements. Anyone who’s ever wanted to witness Arnie ranting insanely in German, or having a hose put in his mouth (in a waterboarding for idiots scene) will go home happy. Although quite why they wanted to see those extremely specific things are beyond me.
While the direction is workmanlike and the plot beats predictable Escape Plan works as a solid piece of action cinema. It doesn’t quite hit the giddy heights of Terminator or Rocky but then what does?