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He Said, She Said Review Site

Escape Plan

What She said:

She

For all you ‘80s action fans, what could be better than having Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up?  Even in their twilight years, they’re oodles of jacked up fun.  And so, The He and I decided to visit Escape Plan, the duo’s recent DVD release. 

The movie primarily follows the character of Ray Breslin.  We learn that he is a genius when it comes to the art of the prison break.  He can pretty much weasel his way out of any maximum security prison you try to lock him down in.  And it’s not like he’s a criminal.  Oh no, this is literally what he does for a living.  The government commissions him to go into prisons undercover and find out their vulnerabilities.  He is the foremost leader in this area, and has even published on the topic.  Life seems to be just peachy for Breslin, when he agrees to take a particularly high paying job. 

Escape Plan

But this job turns out to be Breslin’s worst nightmare.  His GPS is removed and he finds himself in an unknown place, by himself, and left only to his own devices to get out.  And this isn’t your normal prison.  This place, which we find out is called “The Tomb,” is as high tech as they come.  Security is an art form here.  And the warden, Willard Hobbes is absolutely brutal.  This is where Breslin meets Schwarzenegger’s character, Emil Rottmayer.  Rottmayer seems to know some information that Hobbes is trying to torture out of him, but so far he hasn’t given it up.  So, Breslin and Rottmayer become friends and co-conspirators in a plan to escape their lock-up.  They slowly gain intelligence and formulate a plan until the timing is just right for their uprising.

There’s some very complicated after-the-fact stuff involving Rottmayer’s true identity and who was really behind Brelin’s imprisonment.  Let’s just say that the co-founder of Breslin’s enterprise turns out to be not too nice of a man.  This part of the plot sort of lost me a little, and seems slightly overcomplicated it, so I just looked beyond it and enjoyed the movie for what it offered—action, muscles, and lots of hostile glances.

While Schwarzenegger and Stallone are no longer at their prime, they still have the ability to get into pretty good shape.  It’s not my place to question how they accomplish this, but I have my suspicions.  Anyway, they manage to still be convincing as action stars, even if they aren’t punching through walls or anything too over the top like that.  Stallone’s character has brute force, but also is a mechanical genius and that helps to compensate for his loss of muscle mass.  On the flip side, Schwarzenegger offers his customary comedic one liners, and it’s just enough to make this film work.

Now, some of the special effects are not the best, but overall the production value of this film is passable.  Jim Caviezel plays Hobbes the warden/psychopath, and, while he teeters on overacting a few times, I did find him pretty enjoyable to watch.  I think him, Breslin, and Rottmayer had just enough cheese to make them slightly comic booky, as they would have been had this movie been filmed in the ‘80s.  You may also recognize the rapper 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson, making an appearance as Brelin’s staff computer geek.  Honestly, he’s not the best, but hey, I give the moviemakers credit for throwing the guy a bone.  This film is not a classic and every actor has to start somewhere.  I’ll say that Jackson was “refreshing” in his role.

The main flaw of this film is the overcomplicated storyline.  The movie has to tell you quite often what you should be understanding, otherwise, you may end up lost.  There’s a lot of backstory/plot that gets twisted up and I had trouble making sense of it all.  When that melts away, you end up with your standard action faire, and that is just good enough to make this a half decent film.  I wish the writers could have tightened things up a little more—that certainly would have helped bring this movie to another level—but it is what it is.  And that is a good enough action movie that’ll hold you over on a Saturday night.

Thumbs half up.
Escape Plan

What he said:

He

Ever since Arnold finished his run as Governor of California and returned to making movies his success at the box office has been pretty minimal. Critics and fans alike have not responded with much positive reaction to his comeback attempts. Stallone never stopped making movies, but for years he was doing a bunch of direct-to-video releases or cameo roles (think Spy Kids). He only really started to get the big screen treatment again in the last few years. There’s still a lot of hesitancy when it comes to these guys outside of The Expendables movies. Audiences went to see both of them and were asking about the third one almost immediately. But aside from those movies, people haven’t been supporting the classic action stars like they used to. The genre in general still struggles compared to its heyday.

Escape Plan

Personally, I was looking forward to this movie. For starters, I thought it looked decent. Additionally, I was somewhat disappointed in The Expendables films. There are a few good action scenes in them and they are good for some laughs, but they felt like missed opportunities. To me, they play out more like spoofs than actual action movies. I find them mildly amusing, but not the best use of time for the first movie to combine all those big action stars.  

Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a security expert. He specializes in breaking out of maximum security facilities and is often hired by various government agencies to ensure the security of those facilities. How does he do this? He poses as a prisoner and breaks out. This tends to cause some havoc being that nobody at the prison is on it; since the government wants to get as close to a real life test as possible. He then tells the administrators at each prison who he is, how he broke out, and what they need to do to ensure their facility is more secure.

Not long after finishing his latest job, Ray is contacted by CIA Agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) about a new assignment. The CIA wants Ray to test the security of a super secure, highly secret, and unknown (by the general public) facility that houses the baddest of the bad. Terrorists, drug kingpins, and emely violent individuals are the types of people found in this place. His business partner, Lester Clark, wants him to take the job. He (Vincent D’Onofrio) thinks it can bring their business to new levels. His employees, played by Amy Ryan and rapper 50 Cent, think it’s a bad idea since Agent Miller won’t even tell them where the prison is located. Ray decides to take the job, because Ray is the kind of guy who does little more than work.

Abigal and Hush (Ryan and Mr. Cent respectively) might have been right, because Ray is abducted not long after agreeing to the job. They also remove the tracking device, which he wears every time he takes on a new job, almost immediately after kidnapping him. Lester insists that it’s simply a part of the job, because of who they are working with. Abigal and Hush do not share his optimism.

Ray wakes in a glass cell in an unknown location. All he knows that is he is in prison. Not too keen on how things have gone down so far, he asks to see the warden, and also gives his code for evacuation. Warden Willard Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) is not who he was told was in charge. He claims that he doesn’t know what Ray is talking about.

Warden Hobbes is an extreme disciplinarian. He has no tolerance for any kind of behavior that is considered inappropriate. Drake (Vinnie Jones) is his number one guard and enforces the rules when the prisoners get out of line; as well as other times when they don’t.

Not long after arriving, Ray is approached by a prisoner named Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarznegger). Rottmayer is eager to earn Ray’s trust. Once he does, Ray lets him in on his real identity, as well as the fact that something is not as it seems. Rottmayer is already aware of something shady going on because none of the prisoners even know where they are. They think they might be underground, but have no idea what state or even country they are located. After the two share stories, they are convinced something illegal is going on. Together, they form a plan to escape.

I was hesitant to rent this because as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t totally in love with either Expendables movie. Critics torched this movie too. I don’t often care what critics think, especially about action movies, but their mixed results in recent years made me leery.

Escape Plan

I decided to give this a chance and I’m glad I did. Of their “comeback” movies, I thought this was the best one. The action was solid, which sounds simple, but is something Hollywood struggles with nowadays. It’s a combination of a lot of things. First, far too often movies go “too big”. Really fake looking explosions created with bad CGI are a staple in modern action films. This doesn’t work for a few reasons. One, it looks bad. Two, it’s too much. There comes a point where the action becomes boring and anti-climactic. This movie looked real and kept the action somewhat believable. I don’t know why there seems to be this perception that bigger is better in action movies, but at a certain point it becomes absurd. Something doesn’t have to be realistic, it just has to look it. There needs to be some kind of credibility to the events you’re seeing or else I can’t buy the story.  The action in this movie entertained me. It was actually fun and not stupid or loaded with bad CGI.

The acting was good too (for an action flick). Stallone and Arnold were both on their game. Their delivery of was reminiscent of some of their better work. They were on their game. The villains weren’t all-time greats or anything, but they were very serviceable for this kind of film.

The setting was fairly unique too. Like the main characters, you have no idea where they are, so there’s an element of mystery too. All you know is that it's a high tech facility, the warden is a dictator, and the guards are his stormtroopers.

If you like old school action flicks, ignore the critics and give this one a chance. It’s easily the best action movie either one of them has made in years.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 20, 2014.

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