Monday, October 21, 2013

Movie Review: Escape Plan

There are few actors who embody the same sense of gleeful fun as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Near the end of his latest actioner, Escape Plan, after an hour-plus of good old-fashioned fisticuffs, the camera zooms in tight on the former Governor of California's eyes as he pulls a mounted machine gun from a helicopter, turns in slow-motion and lays waste to a horde of approaching baddies. The crowd at my screening cheered, and I can't really blame them.

He is what he is, and so is Escape Plan, a low-brow and giddy slugfest that sees Arnold and Sly Stallone teaming up to escape from a high-security prison. But where Schwarzy's charms become more endearing with age, every inch of Stallone's face seems to hang with weary exhaustion as he grunts out dialogue. It's ultimately Sly's movie, which is unfortunate, since you the movie deflates every minute he's onscreen without his partner in testosterone.

Plotwise, the movie is about Ray Breslin (Stallone) a prison security expert who self-incarcerates and breaks out of joints for a living. He's apparently a calculating mastermind, which is odd since we learn that before his current career path he was a regular old lawyer, but I digress.

Breslin and his team (oh yeah, 50 Cent is in this movie) are approached by the CIA to test out an off-the-books facility for the Guantanamo-esque bad guys who the world would just assume disappear. They're offering double his normal fee so he agrees to get black-bagged and whisked off to some mysterious facility, located somewhere, with no support from his staff. But things are not what they seem and Breslin soon realizes he must either break out or die in prison.

For a movie that trades in simple thrills, Escape Plan actually shackles itself with an overly convoluted plot, including a search for an international Robin Hood-type criminal, several allusions to "the past" that are never close to explained and a half-realized romance with Amy Ryan (who, I might add, is an Oscar nominee. Seriously Amy, what are you doing here?). Don't worry about any of that, just grab a bucket of popcorn and give your brain a night off before Oscar season really kicks in.

Grade: C+
*Escape Plan opens in Utah on Friday, Oct. 18.

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