Vic’s Review – “Escape Plan” (2013)

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What’s it About?

When a structural-security authority finds himself set up and incarcerated in the world’s most secret and secure prison, he has to use his skills to escape with help from the inside.

“Escape Plan”

Directed by Mikael Håfström

7 out of 10

By Vic

Mikael Hafstrom’s latest film,  “Escape Plan,” is an exciting, entertaining and quite smart action flick which stars the pumped up, tatooed, stoic and ever busy, Sylvester Stallone (Cop Land) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (End of Days) who himself, is going through a pretty cool resurgence. The movie, written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, could have been a pretty routine outing but with Stallone’s confident lead, with Arnie backing him up on this one, “Escape Plan” is a smooth and like-able actioner. The film is profuse with witty banter and dialog steadied by some cool and well executed action sequences. It makes the film, in the end, a nuanced thriller, that despite small flaws, is fun and rousing.

Stallone plays Ray Breslin, he has a somewhat sad back story that is never quite explored, who has an interesting occupation. He breaks out of prisons for a living. He gets sent in and paid to break out. He then informs his clients as to how to fortify their strongholds using his tried and true techniques. (Hafstrom makes great use of cool graphics to run us through Ray’s breakdowns in several key moments).

Ray even has made a living of writing several books about this jail breaks. Assisting him are Abby (Amy Ryan) and Hush, plated by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. His boss is the germaphobic and slovenly Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has a new client for Ray to do a job for. When he is approached by a young woman named Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe), from the CIA, to be sent into a new facility to break out of, with no back up or fail safe, Ray’s team sees red flags. Clark, though, seems confident that Ray can get this done. Even with a chip in his shoulder and an evac code things may still go south for Ray and his team.

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Ray is eventually set up, drugged and rushed off, with Hush and Abby trying to track him down. It appears their worst nightmare has come true. They have lost Ray within the system and may not ever find him. All Ray seems to recall is being on a prison transport helicopter and watching someone getting pushed off while in flight. He wakes up and finds himself in a very high tech and modern prison where he meets up with the grizzled, beefy, dangerous and quite amiable Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger).

Hafstrom’s film explores interesting dynamics between the two leads as Ray tries to find a way to escape. Rottmayer and Ray form a bond and together they find routines, repetitions and flaws in the every day running of the prison. Their numerous and almost daily sit downs, as Ray breaks down his observations, are some of the high points of the movie.

Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ, Person of Interest) plays the maniacal and notorious warden, Hobbes. He is great to watch as he makes a very good bad guy, here. He whispers, never raises his voice, wears nice suits and has an interesting hobby involving butterflies. Other cast members that flesh out Hafstrom’s film are Sam Neill (The Final Conflict) as Dr Kyrie, who seems reluctant to help Ray in his predicament and Faran Tahir (Star Trek) as an involved prison mate who is recruited by Rottmayer to help Ray escape. Hafstrom enjoys in making his stars very visible, compelling and dynamic. I must admit I had quite a nice time watching the chemistry between everyone involved here.

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The film has some very true suspenseful moments (everything from water boarding to excessive poundings by the masked guards are on display here) and the capable story has enough twists to keep die hard “escape” fans happy with the fisticuffs, shoot outs and humorous moments. Arnold as Rottmayer has a few fascinating scenes in which we get to know his fate and abilities better and Arnold seems to be enjoying himself. In a taut moment, Arnold is tortured and reduced to hysterics unlike anything we have seen Schwarzenegger attempt before.

Caviezel sinks his teeth into this role and his vile prison warden is one for the history books. We do get the obligatory action movie nonsense like exaggerated and sometimes superfluous gun play, explosions and hand to hand combat but if you know this will be prevalent going in then you will have no problem watching “Escape Plan” unfold. Regarding some twists, you may see some coming and some you may not. The actual location of the prison, (about halfway in) which Hush and Abby try so hard to find, was a surprise to me but not the identity of the “mole” that sets up Ray.

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The film could have been elevated a notch or two above some of it’s standard fare if the subtext could have been examined further. This prison, which Rottmater and Ray try to escape from houses some really, really bad guys. The material lacks the introspection of the political plays that are sure to be used in running such a facility with a villainous guy like Hobbes at the helm.

While we get some interesting play by play examinations of the story and plot, it appears that Hafstrom’s film is solely built on the delightful and engaging (if somewhat stereotypical) characters and the fun that the cast seems to be having through out the film. I felt Neill’s Kyrie was a bit under-examined and under-used but still he has his place in the story. Unfortunately, some aspects of each character’s back stories seem as if either woefully neglected or all together left out. But not to worry.

Escape Plan” has many diverting elements to make it worth a watch (there are so many plot details I want to get into but can’t because it may spoil the film for most) and it’s plain old fashioned fun. There is the occasional immodesty but nothing too distracting. Even if you don’t dig escape films, you may like this one for it’s unique take and spin on the actual characters which all have agendas, issues and a fascinating knack for self preservation. The twists involving Rottmayer and the mysterious Agent Miller are resolved nice and neat as well and the climactic battle with Rottmayer, Hobbes, Ray and a bevy of armed goons.

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The action is slick and loud, the stunts and fights well choreographed and Hafstrom’s direction is readable and capable. Some further meditation and scrutiny may have made “Escape Plan” a very above average thinking man’s break out flick, that’s not to say it won’t make you think at all. Stallone’s the main man, here, though and that was enough for me to really enjoy this movie on a late Saturday afternoon. Sometimes that’s all you need.

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23 comments

  1. Good review Vic. Awesome to finally see Sly and Arnold share the big screen together for what’s longer than five seconds, and also have a great time doing so. It made me have fun, as a result.

    • I had some fun watching this one, too. I was surprised that it had that throwback feel but still felt current and entertaining. Sly and Arnie were great together.

      Thanks for stopping by, Dan. Always appreciated, buddy!

    • I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I was genuinely surprised that it wasn’t just another generic and unremarkable action film. We have way too many of those.

      I’m glad you liked the review. I try my best (when I’m focused) to pick out the strong and weak links of a film without giving away too much of the story.

      I appreciate you stopping by. Thanks! 🙂

    • Hey Keith! Yeah, definitely give this one a shot. It is a very cool throwback action film that still feels fresh and somewhat unique. Don’t get me wrong, many of the ingredients that make up most action flicks is here but I think the fun factor is what saved the film from being boring and routine. It is worthwhile and I hope you enjoy it!

      Glad you liked the review, buddy and thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated! 🙂

    • You hit the nail right on the head, Billy. That’s what I did. I popped it in the blu ray player one Friday evening, turned up the surround sound and had some fun. It’s a great way to kill some time and actually sit through something that doesn’t suck. I hope you enjoy it, man!

      Thanks for stopping by, Billy. Always appreciated, bud!

  2. Yes! I recall your review, too. I said something like: “I’m in” or “I’m sold” lol. I really enjoyed it and I remember you mentioned “Bullet to the Head” as well. Yuck. This movie is soooo much better than that mess.

    Glad you stopped by and checked out the review, Tim! Always appreciated, man. 🙂

    • Glad you liked the movie, Tom! About half an hour or so in, I knew this one was quite different from most. Therefore, I was very surprised.

      Sly and Arnie were a blast to watch in this as was Caviezel and the rest. Decent ensemble action movie. I had some fun with this one.

      Thanks for stopping by, Tom. I appreciate it, man!

  3. Hey Vic sorry for not being around here much. Rarely use my laptop these days. Excellent write up. Really wanna see this since I’m a big Sly fan. Arnold is cool, but love Sly. Really gotta get to this one soon

    • It’s all good, bro. I totally understand. It’s hard to play catch up. I can relate, man.

      I think you’ll dig Escape Plan. Good action flick and worth a watch for the leads alone. It was a lot of fun. Not perfect but had many cool moments.

      Thanks for stopping by, Dave!

      • For some reason your reviews never show up in the app. As I said I never really use my laptop. Don’t really like it to be honest. On my iPad I can connect by safari and check your reviews out. But I mainly use my iPad for writing to preserve battery power.

        If I try and go through safari on my phone ugh I come close to throwing it across the room lol. Though I see your reviews via email.

        I think I’m gonna rent Escape Plan in a few days. I don’t really wanna buy it at the moment. I’ve spent nearly 600$ on movies the last couple of months!!!!!! Need to chill.

        Oh by the way. Do you order from amazon a lot? I do and recently joined amazon prime. 79$ a year. You get free 2 day shipping or free standard shipping. One day is 2.99, which I won’t do I can wait the extra day

        You also get like 1000s of movies to watch for free on amazon instant video.

      • Damn! 600 bucks? I wish I had half of that for a movie buying budget.

        As far as Amazon, I do not order much from them but I plan to in the future. I may join as well. I buy most of my blu rays used and some new, from a few game stores here where I live.

        My TV has the Amazon app for watching movies so it will definitely be worth the money there.

        I hope you Escape Plan, bro!

      • Haha yeah. Here’s the deal though. Christmas I don’t want anything except amazon gift cards. Roughly 2-weeks later is my birthday. On top of that I’m single and honestly I don’t really go out. I stay home watch the Knicks and when off I watch films.

        So therefore I just spend my money on movies, which is why I can’t really afford much lol. However I’ll be spending way less now. On my own money alone I won’t be able to spend anywhere near that lol.

        Btw if you wanna join Prime. I suggest you look into it quickly. There is a chance the price will be raised 20-40$. Right now 79$ for a year. I assume once you join if the price goes up you won’t be charged.

        I saved a total of 25$ on shipping. Watched 3 films on instant video. Since joining I ordered 3 more things so I’m actually just about halfway to the 79 I had to spend. Wish I did it sooner. I join after I spent so much lol.

  4. Good review, Vic! I gave it the same score. It’s a decent amount of fun; like you mentioned, I would have really enjoyed some more development with that picture Stallone kept drawing… I always feel if they can’t complete a competent character arc with that, don’t even start it. Y’know? Anyway, it’s a pretty decent flick even if there wasn’t as much action as I expected. It”s always a joy for me seeing Vinnie Jones though 😀 I love that guy.

    • I totally know what you mean! I felt that there was something indeed missing with some of the threads that they started developing but it never really went anywhere. Especially the back story regarding Stallone’s family.

      Perhaps they felt they needed to chop some of the extraneous stuff. It happens a lot. Oh and yeah, Jones is always fun to watch. He was recently in a few episodes of “Elementary.” He rules. Plus, he’s always working which is a good thing.

      Thanks for stopping by, Daniel! It was great to hear from you, man!

      • Yeah, maybe, but it ends up feeling empty when it’s not complete 😦 I want answers, hahah. Really? I have to get into Elementary. Did you ever see “The Condemned” with him? One of those WWE actioners, it’s a lot of fun. My pleasure, Vic! I’ll make sure to stop by more often!! I’m awful with visiting people’s blogs 😦

      • No worries, Daniel! I usually have to devote an entire day to catch up with all of the blogs I follow, too. But I do need to stop in to your page as well.

        You will enjoy Elementary. Well written, acted and the stories are very true to the AC Doyle canon regarding Holmes and Watson. It is also quite different from Sherlock (Which I also love) and is pretty modern and updated.

        I have a dvd copy of The Condemned, I think, but have never watched it. My boys love the WWE action flicks. I will let you know once I’ve watched it!

        Stay in touch! 🙂

      • Hey, that’s a good idea. Maybe I’ll do that on Mondays, so I have something to look forward to on Mondays. (Well, now I have BATES MOTEL every Monday, so that’s pretty good, too!) I might watch Sherlock before I watch Elementary, or at least watch the RDJ movies again, lol. I recommend The Condemned, especially if you like hand-to-hand combat. Probably my favourite WWE flick; they’re pretty mindless, but fun! Did you ever see The Marine? I have to see Twelve Rounds with Cena, that one looks pretty decent.

        Ok, I will! 😀 Hey, what’s your email? Maybe that will help us stay in touch better 🙂

      • I have seen The Marine! We have that one and 12 Rounds we own too but I haven’t watched it.

        The RDJ Holmes flicks are ok but I prefer the Cumberbatch shows overall. Let me know if you enjoy them!

        I just DM’ed you my contact info on Twitter 😉

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