Monday, November 4, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Escape Plan

Escape Plan was directed by Mikael Hafstrom (1408), written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller and stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This isn't the first time Sly and Arnold have appeared onscreen together, as they were part of the ensemble casts of The Expendables films. But this is the first time they've ever shared top billing.

This momentous pairing of action movie titans almost didn't happen, as Bruce Willis was originally cast as Ray Breslin before dropping out. 

Movie producers have been trying to team up Sly and Arnold for decades, but could never quite make it happen. According to Arnold, some of the proposed team up movies were bizarre to say the least:
"One movie wanted us to be undercover agents in drag, and another movie wanted us to change from human beings to animals. So he was the dog and I was the cat and we were fighting each other. It was some comedy. It was all this ludicrous stuff."
Yikes! Can you imagine these two in drag? Maybe it's just as well the team up never happened until now!

On the other hand, maybe they waited too long to team them up. When I saw the film my friend and I were the only two people in the entire theater. If this movie had come out in 1987 it would have played to packed houses every night. I hate to say it but I think modern film goers just don't care about Sly and Arnold anymore. That makes me sad. 


The Plot:
Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a consultant who makes his living by escaping from prisons to point out the flaws in their security. He's approached by the CIA to test a new high tech maximum security prison which will house the most vile prisoners imaginable.

Ray agrees to the proposal and is given a "safe word" so the warden will release him when the test is over. However he's captured, drugged and wakes up in a different high-tech prison called The Tomb, run by a sadistic warden who has no knowledge of Ray's true identity or the safe word.

Ray is now trapped in an inescapable prison, and his only hope for escape lies with fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

• Always good to see Sly and Arnold share the screen. Why did it take so long for this to happen?

• I liked all the CSI-style breakout flashback sequences, in which Sly points out all the flaws in the prison and how he exploited them in order to escape. The escapes were all very elaborate and improbable (if not downright impossible), but still cool. Something tells me they won't be screening this film in real prisons.

• Arnold actually shows he can act in this film. He's come a long way since Conan The Barbarian.

• The CIA supposedly wants Sly to enter The Tomb and prove it's escape proof. Later it's revealed that The Tomb is not actually owned by the CIA, but by a for-profit organization. They plan to keep Sly imprisoned there forever and pay his partner Lester Clark a $5 million annual salary to look the other way.

I don't understand why The Tomb's owners want Sly imprisoned there for life. Is it because The Tomb is supposed to be top secret and he now knows about it?

• There's a huge reveal about halfway through the movie in which Sly discovers that The Tomb is actually housed inside an enormous cargo ship sailing in unknown waters (!). That means that even if he somehow manages to escape, there'll be nowhere for him to go.

Sly tells Arnold about this unbelievable revelation and he wisely calls bullish*t. I agree with him. I find it hard to believe that no one in The Tomb can feel their prison rocking and listing with the waves. Sly gives some half-hearted explanation that the ship is so massive that it's completely stable, especially if it's in calm waters. Nope. I ain't buying it.

• The guards in The Tomb all wear featureless black masks to prevent the inmates from recognizing them and establishing patterns in their schedules and routines. Makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is putting a vision-restricting mask on a guard. A guard who's going to need all of his senses unobstructed in order to prevent being stabbed, beaten or knocked out cold by a dangerous inmate.

• Arnold's patented catchphrases are slipping. As he and Sly escape, they pause to blow up Warden Hobbs. As Hobbs explodes, what do you think Arnold says? "Calm down befoah you ovah-heat?" Maybe "Cool off, Wahden?" How about "Yoah fired?" Nope. He utters a limp and lame "Have a nice day, asshole." Yikes.

• Near the beginning of the film CIA agent Jessica Miller comes to Sly and asks him to test the security of The Tomb. At the end we find out Agent Miller is really Arnold's daughter, and the whole thing was an elaborate ruse to get Sly to break Arnold out of the super prison.

Why all the play acting and subterfuge? Why didn't Arnold's daughter just come to Sly and ask him to help her father escape? I guess maybe if they'd done that and he'd have said "no" then they'd have been screwed, but it still seems like Sly owes Arnold a punch in the nose.

• Sly's partner Lester Clark betrays him, and as comeuppance he wakes up inside his car, which is inside a shipping container, which is on a cargo ship heading for parts unknown.

So what? Shipping containers aren't airtight are they? Won't he eventually be released once the ship reaches its port? Sure he'll be in a foreign country with no money and dressed only in his underwear, which might be a bit of an inconvenience, but it ain't like he's dead. 

I think it was supposed to be a funny moment, but if it was it failed miserably.

Escape Plan is acceptable entertainment if you turn off your brain at the door. Sly and Arnold deserve better for their first (and at their age, likely only) team up. I give it a B-.

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