In Escape Plan, Sylvester Stallone plays the owner of a security firm specialising in testing the security of maximum security prisons, and in the prologue we see him do what he’s best at: escaping them, and highlighting their flaws to their witless wardens. His next job is a more morally murky affair, taking on a secret prison for the CIA, but once he wakes up after a particularly harrowing kidnap, he realises he’s in there for real and has been set up. His next job is to get out of a Face/Off style prison overseen by a warden (a lively Jim Caviezel) who knows exactly who he is.
In there he meets Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inmate, and a grudging friendship blossoms, their desire for survival pulling them together in a likely cause. On first impression the fact that they become friends almost instantly is cause for concern. It comes across forced and contrived, whereas seeing them forced to depend on each other would have been more interesting. However the script pays off this oversight with some justification at the end.
The biggest problem is that the film’s premise already has a weak springboard, but once it dives full on into Stallone’s predicament and his machinations to get out, the plot crumbles even more once you spend a modicum of thought pondering it. Frankly there’s so many coincidences and variables to the plans these characters cook up, it’s a miracle they accomplish anything. So basically you just have to jump on board and suspend your disbelief, or check out and roll your eyes at the antics.
This is the first film since Schwarzenegger came out of retirement to show he’s still got life left in him, and even some acting chops. His performances in the Expendables movies and The Last Stand were worryingly stiff, but also understandable considering his time spent away from the big screen. But in Escape Plan he shows a mischievous side, full of charisma, and even busting out some German during a humorous attempt at causing a diversion while Stallone does the heavy lifting. For me, this role proves he’s finally back.
Jim Caviezel plays a suitably slimy villain, strangely showing more vitality than he does in TV series Person of Interest. Vinnie Jones inexplicably shows up and reminds us that he belongs in the early 00s, because he doesn’t bring anything to his role and feels dated by his mere presence. It doesn’t help that his outfit is utterly ridiculous and looks like it belongs in a rejected scene from X-Men 3.
The plot is ludicrous, convoluted, and way too long, but populated by a few welcome actors, such as Sam Neill, providing support, and overall it’s just another excuse to see the novelty of two of the biggest action stars star alongside each other. It’s not heavy on action till the end, and is more of a pot-boiling thriller with brief moments of violence, but when Arnie and Sly start throwing punches and firing guns, you can’t help but grin.