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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 10.18.13] action thriller adventure

Over the last few year years there has been a lot of chatter about the re-emergence of 80s action heroes. I have joined in the conversation on occasion, proclaiming that the return of these guys, many now over the hill, reprising the kind of roles that made them popular to begin with, is a good thing and apparently someone in Hollywood agrees because in addition to the continued success of The Expendables franchise and other movies, in slightly less successful but hugely enjoyable style, like Bullet to the Head and The Last Stand, the good ole boys are still going at it. Escape Plan is only the latest entry into the attempt of making oldie action stars relevant again – with moderate success.

Sylvester Stallone stars as Breslin, a security expert who has made a second career out of breaking out of maximum security prison facilities. The Bureau of Prisons hires him, inserts him into the system and through power of observation and problem solving, Breslin gets himself out. Most of the time.

Though it sounds a bit fishy, Breslin agrees to take on a job for the CIA which would have him breaking out of a highly classified, multi-national off the books facility that will potentially house individuals better though dead. Before even getting inside, he realizes that this isn't the typical job, a thought that is confirmed when he wakes up in a Plexiglas cell under the watchful eyes of guards wearing indistinguishable uniforms (which include face masks) and a typically too-calm-to-be-anything-but-crazy warden named Hobbes (played by Jim Caviezel). Breslin befriends Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) a guy who turns out to have significant pull thanks to having been there longer and holding some tidbit of information that Hobbes badly wants.

Surprisingly, there's a lot more plot to Escape Plan. There's a bit of Breslin backstabbing by his business partner on the outside (Vincent D'Onofrio - surprisingly clean), some additional details about the prison, an alcoholic doctor (Sam Neill), an angry prison guard (Vinnie Jones) and even something about Rottmayer's identity. This all plays nicely into the real brick and mortar of the story: the breakout which involves a couple of exploratory attempts, the pissing off of the warden and his cronies and a final plan that goes off track almost immediately after it goes into play.

It doesn't have the one liners of last year's surprisingly great Lockout (review) or the explosions of energy you expect from this type of movie where things are even toned for stretches of time before some event wretches up the action to 11. Director Mikael Håfström keeps it moving along at a good pace but there's an even tone and energy to the entire thing and even the action scenes feel like they're a deflated of energy. Part of the problem is that Stallone just looks tired (though in good physical form). Schwarzenegger is far more charismatic here but he's given surprisingly little to do; he does have a few key scenes which are glorious to watch but there aren't enough of them to energize the entire movie. Things do pick up a little in the final escape attempt, it's as if all of the energy of the movie was held in storage for the last hurrah (including a couple of epic, and hilarious, fan pandering moments).

It's fun to watch but Escape Plan doesn't deliver much in the form of memorable, long lasting entertainment. It doesn't have the towering energy of The Expendables or the more introspective, character breakdown appeal of either star's other recent movies but for purely watch once and forget about it entertainment value, it works.

Escape Plan opens Friday, October 18.

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Fendell (8 years ago) Reply

"lacks magic" but entertains....what a silly comment. Any doofus today can be a reviewer.

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