Review: Escape Plan Is Less Expendable than… You Know

Planet Hollywood's shareholders meeting.
Planet Hollywood’s shareholders meeting.

Now a full-on subgenre, the veteran super-team movies have never deliver to its promise. The Expendables saga deals with so many egos, the plot is buried under dozens of face-offs in which no one can come out poorly. There is an image to protect.

Escape Plan doesn’t have that burden, even though two of the Expendables are the leads. Ray Breslin (a low key Sylvester Stallone) makes a living out of pointing out security flaws in US prisons by breaking out of them. Breslin is so good, he is hired by the CIA to escape a black ops detention center for the world’s most dangerous criminals.

Of course it’s a set up. Breslin ends up in an undisclosed location, stuck in a prison designed by following his own expertise. Outsmarted by his own design, the breakout artist’s only shot is an association with a henchman with an agenda of his own (Arnold Schwarzenegger, surprisingly likeable).

While ridden with plot holes, Escape Plan is a remarkably lean enterprise. Director Mikael Hafstrom (1408) keeps the story moving along. The proceedings are clever and very quickly the prison itself becomes a character. The leads are surrounded by likeable talent like Amy Ryan and Sam Neill. Even the villains have a glint in their eye (since the cancellation of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, we don’t get nearly enough Vincent D’Onofrio).

Perfectly aware Stallone and Schwarzenegger are not particularly strong actors, Mikael Hafstrom reduces the emoting to a minimum, while enhancing the easygoing camaraderie between the icons. Too bad he couldn’t do the same with Sly’s dialogue: Good chunks of exposition are mumbled unintelligibly by the star. Somebody should remind Stallone that his thing is the strong, silent type.

There is an element of nostalgia that Escape Plan captures but The Expendables misses. Probably because without the winking and the nudging, these 80’s icons remain as blissfully unaware of themselves as they were in their heyday. Three alpha prairie dogs locked in a small hole.

Escape Plan is now playing at the Galaxy.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.