Escape Plan: What to do with Aging Stars

Aging action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger reteam in Escape Plan, a cheesy, old fashion actioner that can’t conceal too facts. First, that its leads are far too old to play these parts. And second, that the movie is a retro (but not a cool one) to three decades ago, when the two men were at their prime.

Silly plot, one-dimensional characters, and lazy directing style result in the kind of picture that only hard core plans of the stars can enjoy. Essentially, this is a one-weekend movie at the box-office.
As is known, Escape is not the first collaborative effort of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, having made the first two Expendables segments (there are rumors that a third one is in the works).

Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a high-security expert who gets incarcerated in all kinds of escape-proof prisons so that he can find new, inventive ways to get out. In contrast, Schwarzenegger plays Emil Rottmayer, an inmate in a tightly sealed jail. The name suggests Austrian and/or German origins, and indeed, the star gets a chance to mumble a few words in German.

Stallone as a man of letters? Yes. Ray is the famous author of the definitive book on prison security who, in this preposterously plotted picture, manages to get himself locked up in the country’s toughest prisons and then break out incognito, thus exposing their deficiencies, the cracks in their systems.

The secondary cast, which functions as his partners, fares slightly better, perhaps because they are played by such good actors as Amy Ryan, Vincent D’Onofrio and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

When Ray accepts an irresistible offer from the CIA to test his abilities in a corporately run joint, he ends up on his own, under the name of Portos (who, incidentally, is the fourth musketeer), without the knowledge or benefit of his cohorts.

The cells in this huge prison are made of clear glass, so that the dangerous inmates can be observed at all times. The place is supervised by the warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), a soft-spoken sadist. Other members of the staff include an English enforcer (Vinnie Jones) and a reluctant doctor (Sam Neill).

The focus of the narrative, as it should be, is on the interaction between Ray’s Stallone and Emil Rottmayer’s Schwarzenegger; after all, this is the rasion d’etre for the film.
Emil can’t help but how Ray is endlessly alert, always observing guard behavior, other routines, and equipments. In due course, Emil saves Ray from a violent mob but then engages him in a fist-fight (“You fight like a vegetarian,” he insults his smaller opponent) and finally engages in a joint effort to find the stir’s weak spot.

The screenplay, credited to Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko, is silly, improbable, and banal. The final reel is particularly ludicrous, depicting Ray in a vertical cell facing a life-threatening situation when the water keeps filling the place.

Mikael Hafstrom directs like a hack in the most impersonal imaginable way.

Making things worse is an excessive running time (full two hours), which overextends its welcome by at least 20 minutes or so.