‘Escape Plan’ Is Big Dumb Fun If You’re Into That Sort Of Thing
Look. Either you are the kind of person that wants to go see “Escape Plan,” like me, or you are the other kind of person that is busying your brain with quality highbrow entertainment rather than an infinite series of fistfights and explosions. If you are the latter, this probably isn’t your ideal movie. If you’re the former, this likely isn’t your ideal movie either. It’s no “Bourne Identity” or “Mission Impossible” or anything of the sort. On a scale from “Die Hard” to “Die Hardest,” it is definitely closer to “Die Hardest,” which, for the uninitiated, means it is worse, not better. However, it’s fun, and there are indeed fistfights and explosions galore.
The whole point of seeing films like this is to set your expectations accordingly. With both Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger starring, you know you’re not seeing Shakespeare. You’re also not seeing Sly or Ah-nuld at their action movie peak, but they fare better here than they have in some more recent outings (looking at you, “Expendables 2”) because this film spends a fair amount of time acknowledging that these dudes are old. OLLLLDDDDDD. Stallone really looks like hell:
…and he sounds that way too. His entire delivery style, which has always been charitably described as laconic, is here completely mush-mouthed. He speaks as if you’ve stuffed his mouth full of socks. Which makes his backstory – an ex-prosecutor, really?? – sort of improbable. These days, he’s a security consultant who tests prison security flaws by breaking out of them. He’s sort of a white hat hacker of prisons. This is all above-board, and someone in authority inside always knows exactly who he is so that if things go south, he can still get out.
Does he get put in a prison where no one knows who he is and he can’t get out? OF COURSE HE DOES. He’s hired to test a private completely off-the-books prison that is intended to house the people no government wants, like current Guantanamo residents. When he gets there, his contact doesn’t exist, no one believes he’s a security consultant, and the place is a terrifying motherfucker of a panopticon looking thing:
We go through some standard prison movie tropes – abusive guards! having fistfights to prove you’re tough! – before Stallone gets to meet Schwarzenegger, who seems to have some sort of cachet in the prison hellscape and also appears to be aging much more gracefully than Sly:
See? He looks positively craggy there, and it’s a good look. Arnold also gets the best lines, probably because you can actually understand him better than Stallone. You will be, of course, completely taken aback to find out that Arnold wants out of the prison and has resources and a sorta kinda plan worked up, a plan that will benefit from the assistance of Mr. Mumblemouth. Will they band together against terrible odds? Of course they will. Will they get out of there? Oh, for fuck’s sake. What do you think?
Sly and Arnold are legit good in this. They’re fun to watch, they have a great rapport, and they’re only mildly superhuman in terms of their fighting abilities. The real scene-stealer, though, is Jim Caviezel, aka Jesus from the the Mel Gibson Jesus film. Caviezel is clean-shaven here and has the delightfully psychopathic air of an Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs,” absent the chewing people up part. He’s elegant and spends much of the movie brushing invisible specks off his immaculate vest before engaging in maximum sadistic behavior or having a minion do it for him. Also, he’s quite handsome when he’s not busy looking like Jesus.
50 Cent has a supporting role, which will make you spend the entire movie trying to figure out who he is and who the female lead is. (She’s the chick from season two of “The Wire” that McNulty ends up dating. You’re welcome.) Vincent D’onofrio plays Stallone’s business partner, and he’s almost late-period Brando in his weirdness. He’s heavy, dresses in light suits and what might actually be a panama hat and won’t touch anything without slathering on hand sanitizer. He’s delightful.
“Escape Plan” is out now, and you should see it if you like movies like “Escape Plan.” If you don’t like films like this to begin with, this probably won’t change your mind. For that, try seeing “RED,” which is the best wisecracking action movie ever, basically.