Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Flicks: Escape Plan

It's officially Van Damme Friday but before birthday shenanigans commence, I squeezed in a Sneak of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone's latest team up, Escape Plan (formerly The Tomb).  Sure Arnold popped up in Expendables I and II in near parody cameos but Escape Plan sees the two Hollywood heroes on near equal ground and screen time.  Apparently Bruce Willis was up for the lead role before Sly came on and drafted Arnold for support.

The story goes like this, Stallone plays prison expert Ray Breslin who breaks out of maximum security facilities for a living.  He's offered double his usual rate to test out a new, privately run, for profit establishment.  Of course things aren't what they seem and now Breslin is locked in a prison designed from his own studies run by Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel of being Jesus fame).  Needing to escape to find out who set him up, Breslin teams with Emil Rottmayer (King of Kings Arnie) and bromantic action thrills ensue.

Seeing this last summer at a test screening, I thought the flick was pretty solid.  It had two showy roles for the aging titans of action cinema, despite some Direct to DVD qualities it looked like a decent amount of money went into the production and nearly every role is filled by a familiar face like Vinnie Jones, 50 Cent and Dr. Alan Grant himself, Sam Neil. It's nice to see Sly and Arnie not playing simple lunk heads, the script is a little more cerebral (or tries to be at least) than their latest comeback outings The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head.  There's bits of action, excitement and humor sprinkled throughout with explosions, torture, fist fights, gun fights, water fights and even a slow motion shot to showcase how badass Arnold still is on screen.  Nothing too over the top a la The Expendables though, it's like a procedural heist movie mixed with an action thriller.

Sweden's Mikael Hafstrom (1408) does a good job pulling the strings even if he has a penchant for close ups then pulling out to super wide shots of CGI blah-ness.  I wonder if Stallone agreed to play the straight arrow to Arnold's showier role or if it was in the script or just came together that way on set.  Afterwards, I couldn't remember anything memorable Sly's character uttered while Arnold had puns and one liners for days, my favorite being, "you hit like a vegetarian!".  While it's a valiant effort on everyone's part, Escape Plan falls short of being an actual good movie, sure it's fun and you leave feeling happy but it's just hard to watch these guys you grew up with in their prime try to recapture that lost glory.  They both have charisma and talent, in Sly's elder form, he'd kill as a mafia don or any man in power with or without having to perform action hero theatrics.  Arnold's acting is a little stiffer and he's better suited playing over the top roles that can poke fun of and utilize his fantastic career.

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