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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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