Often in Hollywood, actors are unfairly type casted on a consistent basis. Highly talented performers such as Luis Guzman, or the cast of Seinfeld for instance, have experienced this for years, being regulated to same kind of roles over and over again. However, there are a number of cases in film where type casting is absolutely necessary for a movie, or a series of movies, to work. This is exactly why Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are possibly the biggest action film stars ever. If you’re like me, then you associate them with mindlessly entertaining action films (besides basically Rocky, Copland, and the first two Terminators) that belong in the 70s or 80s. Demolition Man, Rambo, Predator, Commando, etc., the list just goes on with a ton of these movies and most of them made a big profit at the box office. Clearly, people love these cheesy, macho action heroes. So of course, Lionsgate saw a massive money making opportunity by putting Schwarzenegger and Stallone in a film together and released The Expendables in 2010, followed by its sequel 2 summers ago. Escape Plan, which debuted to a disappointing $9 million this weekend, again unites the stars and is essentially an homage to the style of films that made both famous in the first place. Basically, Escape Plan is very much a Schwarzenegger/Stallone movie at heart.
Sylvester Stallone plays Ray Breslin, the owner of a security firm based in Los Angeles. His job is to test the “escape-proofness” of prisons by being placed in them and then finding ways to break out of them. The movie introduces itself by immediately focusing on Breslin in prison. Without knowing the plot before viewing the film, this is pretty exciting right off the bat. It starts with a ton of action without any context. I had no idea what was happening or what anything meant, and this confusion gave me a similar feeling to one I had when I saw Memento. Then we are introduced to Ray Breslin’s life once he is driven to safety by his employers, played by 50 Cent and Academy Award-nominee Amy Ryan. The real story begins when a CIA agent visits Breslin and offers him a huge pay for the job of the most corrupt, hardest prison he has ever had to break out of, run by Jesus himself, Jim Caviezel. In this prison is also where Breslin meets Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who will become his partner-in-crime in escaping.
Overall, the movie is mildly entertaining. Basic plot, basic dialogue, not a lot of complex characters. Clichéd, unintelligent lines fill the movie, such as “You hit like a vegetarian”. Breslin and Rottmayer’s other associate is Javed, a Muslim, and if you don’t know anything about Islam, then I suggest not seeing this movie, as it provides a very narrow understanding of the religion. All the Muslims in the film pray constantly and that’s all they do really. Schwarzenegger at one point even says, “He’s Muslim, so he prays all day”. Javed also says “Allah Akbar” constantly. It’s distracting generalizations like these that bog dog a mindless action film like Escape Plan.
If you’ve watched Stallone or Schwarzenegger before in a film you know how they are. They always remind you that you’re watching a movie. Stallone always sounds drunk. His dialogue is always mumbled, and Schwarzenegger puts an extra amount of passion to his roles to the point where it’s clear that he’s acting, and it’s a great reminder that you’re watching a movie. None of this has changed in Escape Plan. It’s sort of like the two have become action figures of their own screen personas; it’s fun to watch but hardly a reason to rush out to the theater.
Despite the fact that the film is easy to follow and the gratuitous amount of blood is captivating in a senseless violence kind of way, the clichéd lines throughout the movie weaken the chances of the movie being taken even remotely seriously by audiences. But, if you’re a fan of similar action films like Red Dawn or Dredd – the ones with basic plots, scripts, and characters – than there’s a definite possibility this one will be entertaining. It’s not as god awful as the box office returns suggest but it’s hardly a dud either. If these are the types of movies Schwarzenegger and Stallone are putting out now, they could do way worse.
Review by David Samuels