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As far as you can get from the prison break masterpiece that is PAPILLON (1973), ESCAPE PLAN still has its charm and is a fun romp that pairs two aging action titans and allows them to flex their muscles this time as true co-stars.
Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a master at breaking out of prisons. But the twist is, he does it for a living. Hired by the Prison federation his job is to insert himself into the facilities and showcase the flaws in the system that might lead to prison escapes.
Offered a job to test out a new facility that purports to be the most sophisticated maximum prison that money can buy, Ray takes the job, even though there are a few red flags that all this may not be on the level.
He soon discovers that he should have listened to his instincts and winds up a real prisoner with no hope of freedom. He soon enlists the help of fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to work out an escape plan. There’s not a prison on the planet that Ray can’t escape from, but this one might be the one.
ESCAPE PLAN is smarter than your average action flick, but it still ultimately suffers from the typical clichés. I was not surprised to discover in the behind the scenes featurettes that the script had been kicking around Hollywood for some time and was originally conceived as a more grounded thriller. Once Arnold and Sly came onboard it was tailored more to their…ahem…strengths.
Both action megastars are up for the challenge and even though they are both getting a tad long in the tooth, I was surprised at how engaged I was by both of them, especially Arnold who retains that charisma that he’s known for.
Ultimately the movie works but just by the skin of its teeth. It feels more like a 90’s action film as opposed to the more contemporary ilk, but maybe that’s why it worked for me. A bit of a throwback film with a little more thought put into it.