Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MR Escape Plan

What should we obtain when we combine on screen - for the very first time! - two of the most badass action stars of the 1990s?

Probably something more than a simple "prison film"...

It's a competition between SLY and SCHWARZIE in these following reviews:

Movie: Escape Plan (also known as The Tomb and Exit Plan)
Directed by Mikael Håfström 
Release date 2013
Genre Action/thriller
Country USA

This is it!

The Stallone/Schwarzenegger film we have all been waiting for all those films, which the 1990s never gave us...

I'm of course not talking about The Expendables series here, that is a whole different kind of project on its own.


The question is... was it worth the wait?

Filmed by Swedish director Mikael Håfström, behind such films as The Rite, 1408 and also Evil, Escape Plan was originally intended to feature Bruce Willis as the main character back in 2010.

During the production, it was first originally titled Exit Plan and then simply The Tomb. But despite me liking the later a bit more, it might have been a bit confusing for the general audience I suppose...

The film stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the very first time together on screen (properly, not a part of a larger ensemble cast of cameo), Person of Interest's main star Jim Caviezel and Amy Ryan.

It is actually a modern interpretation of sorts of the 1844 French adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, which was also already adapted into a more accurate 2002 film also starring Jim Caviezel (the main baddie and warden here).

Our story follows Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone), ex-field agent and now head of a security firm that tests the reliability of super-max prisons.

His job? It's basically to break out of those prisons and then give detailed analysis of these prisons' security issues. When he's in a job, he's incarcerated along the rest of the inmates. He then spends time studying their design flaws and the guards' habits and patterns to exploit any weaknesses he finds. His main goal? To eliminate all the weaknesses in every prison he's assigned to, to be sure prisoners stay there.

One day his partner tells him about this deal to work for some shady government organization that is experimenting a prototype for an underground prison for super criminals. He reluctantly accepts, since he was planning to quit this life after so many years. This will be on last job before shutting down his enterprise.

The mission? To break out of a super secret hi-tech facility, codenamed "The Tomb".

But when they kidnap him in the streets, move him in an undisclosed location without any mean to contact the rest of his team only to find there a completely different warden, Breslin notices something is really wrong in this whole scenario. And when his code word is not recognize, Breslin sees he might be in over his head...

He befriends another inmate, Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Breslin require all the help he can get, even if that means putting aside his differences with other fellow inmates.

And so Breslin begins to study the place. The most protected fortified place ever built to contain prisoners.

After a lot of planning and using the isolation he can get in the solitary confinement cells, Breslin is finally able to get outside the cells... only to find out they have been actually all this time aboard a giant cargo ship!

Will our protagonists only be able to get out of this situation, in the most heavily guarded prison on Earth, in the most secure installation ever built?

And who is making sure he stays there?!

More than any past Stallone or Schwarzenegger film, Escape Plan was perhaps more reminiscent of those (decent, but silly) Jean-Claude Van Damme direct-to-video films more than actually feeliing like the proper big budget epic action film it was supposed to be.

Granted, Mikael Håfström does a lot of good at capturing a great tension like those action films of old. The film is fast paced, brutal and pretty entertaining.   

But it's kinda difficult to take this movie for any less than what it was supposed to be. What it was promised to us. Being, the first proper pairing on screen of the two cult classic action movie stars of the late 1980s/90s!

And on some level, that's exactly what the film does.

Our aging stars still kick some ass while taking names.

Schwarzie probably plays his part with a bit more tongue-in-cheek than his Rambo co-star. Always with a little wink to the camera, and a couple of one lines for the fans.

But for the most part, the film plays it straight and with more conviction on Stallone's side. In fact, I really liked how Sly took his character seriously, how the character of Breslin planned his two attempts at breaking out in both the prologue and the first half of the film. With careful planning, analysis and a smart use of the tools available to him.

But then, it kinda suddenly gets silly past the mid-point... The later end simply throwing away any realistic tone it still retained by that moment and going for a more over-the-top approach, guns ablazin' and explosions afar!

It's a film where the main stars really have to carry the whole movie more than any other aspect.

We even get a couple fun decent performances, such as a fun Vinnie Jones sadly really underused here, but still pretty good. And as ridiculous as he can look, I personally found Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's techno-geek sidekick character pretty fun.

Heck, we even get to have Arnie speak some German in his cell to get the attention of the guards!

It's pretty fun and seems pretty smart at first, but it's also kinda ridiculous and gets really silly by the end.

Yet it still was a very fun prison break-style thriller. Sadly it was a bit disappointing as far as this prison genre go, there's certainly better films out there.

But, hey! Like I said, we finally get Sly and Arnold together on screen!

It's like the film really wanted to be a simple dumb throwback to loud action films of the 90s more than the more violent mature ones of 80s... but begins with an entirely different better thriller at first.

The film is not without some humor of course. And the premise itself was kinda stupid when you think about it, it's a bit far fetched to be honest.

My main problem is that there seems to be a lot of missed opportunities for the simpler broader nostalgia appeal they went for.

Finally the music composed by Alex Heffes was pretty good. A great music score which actually reminded me of action films back then. With some great catchy themes and a couple of decent action cues.

Overall, Escape Plan is a different kind of film than what anyone might have expected for the occasion...

Most people certainly wanted a big epic action blockbuster flick instead of this semi-thriller experience.

All in all it's a decent little film. It could have been much more epic.. It's kinda ridiculous, and the 3rd act really is where most of the film falls apart...

Until the first attempt at an escape from the big scifi prison, the film played it pretty smart, making his escape plan using only his smarts... but then they decided to amp it up for the end and things become really, really dumb, real fast.

I can only wonder, had this been done in the 90s instead, I'm sure they would have tried keeping a more even tone throughout the film and I'm also pretty sure Sly would have played the good guy imprisoned in the facility while Arnold would have been the film's real hero/main protagonist...

I give it:
2 / 3 Films!

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