Mania Review: Escape Plan -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B

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  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neil, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson
  • Written by: Miles Chapman and Jason Keller
  • Directed by: Mikael Håfström
  • Studio: Summit Entertainment
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Escape Plan

The more things change...

By Rob Vaux     October 18, 2013

Escape Plan
© Summit Entertainment/Robert Trate

 I'm a little shocked at how not-shitty Escape Plan is. Besides the novelty value of watching 80s action icons Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone well and truly share the screen together, it actually comes up with some clever ideas here and there: balanced against some ridiculous plot holes and the  kind of era-specific spectacle that these boys used to eat for lunch. It shouldn't work. At all. And yet somehow director Mikael Hafstrom pulls a modestly entertaining rabbit out of his hat, and finds the kind of popcorn entertainment that our rather dismal summer struggled mightily to deliver.

It's also heavily steeped in nostalgia, with a heaping fistful of the kind of procedural ridiculousness that the two stars perpetrated in their prime. Escape Plan doles a lot of it out carefully – mostly  in the big finale – but there's something gratifying about watching faceless minions with assault rifles who can't hit the broad side of a barn get picked off by a lone hero with a pistol dangling from a helicopter. The careful handling of that keeps it from becoming a joke while reminding us that only these two could get away with such shenanigans in this day and age.

The remainder of Escape Plan follows the tried-and-true formula promised in the ads, pitting the ultimate escape artist against the ultimate jail. The Tomb, an ultra-secret run-for-profit hellhole, proves too tempting for professional loophole finder Breslin (Stallone) to resist. He makes a living by posing as a prisoner in various federal institutions, then demonstrating exactly how permeable their supposedly invulnerable walls can be. The CIA wants him to test out The Tomb, but there's more afoot than it first appears, and Breslin soon finds himself trapped inside with no way out. He needs to enlist the help of a notorious fellow inmate (Schwarzenegger) while defying the heatless warden (Jim Caviezel), who knows who he is and doesn't much care.

It sounds like a set-up for testosterone-fueled idiocy and to some extent it is. But the script proves smarter than expected, with details that kind of make sense and plans that hold a certain internal logic, despite the numerous gaping questions afforded by the scenario.

Whenever the MacGuyer details don't quite work, we turn to our aging stars for aid, still carrying considerable presence augmented by their obvious relish at finally teaming up. (The Expendables movies don't quite count.) Sure, we can't understand a word they say sometimes –  the longer expository scenes need a Rosetta Stone to crack – but they say it with great enthusiasm, and remain credible action stars despite their advancing age. Arnold also avails himself of a rare opportunity –to speak dialogue in his native German for the first time, while Stallone's disaffected smile keeps the tone fun and upbeat.

Hafstrom, for his part, provides a deft pacing that never flags, despite the lack of giant set pieces and copious effects that the leads commanded in their heyday. The diminished expectations of their later years play to Escape Plan's advantage. We don't expect much from it, and it responds by raising the bar past what we thought possible.

The nostalgia factor plays a big role too, reminding us of why these guys bestrode the Earth like a colossus back in the day and how much of their guilty-pleasure appeal remains intact. Their canon seems so charmingly quaint now: so home-spun and friendly in the face of recent soulless blockbusters. Of course, their movies were the soulless blockbusters once upon a time, a fact of which Escape Plan seems quietly aware. It invites us to share the joke, while taking a ride that doesn't quite rank as a classic, but can't help but put a smile on your face. As we pause in anticipation of Oscar season, it's nice to have some good dumb fun to keep us company. And who better to deliver it than these two jokers: a little older, a little creakier, but still doing what they do with so much delicious glee. 


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exfan 10/18/2013 1:07:35 AM

that s good news ! these guys are not dead yet, and still can deliver powerfull movies for a decade...

SmokingFrog77 10/18/2013 3:31:36 AM

Can't wait! 

Dazzler 10/18/2013 4:19:14 AM

Have I mentioned recently I saw this a SDCC with Sly and Arnold and got poster autographed by them and I yellled E3 at Sly and he acknowledged me and how cool the movie was?  All this came from the heads up article you guys posted.  I could have left San Diego after that night.  Those guards came in a prison bus and they were as emotionless as Royal guards in English standing watch.  You won't be dissappointed in this fun movie, turn your brain off type of thing.  Only one spoiler I will give....when Arnold opens up with a heavy machine gun the audience went wild was pretty cool.  

DarthBob 10/18/2013 5:36:00 AM

Crap, I was kinda hoping this sucked because then I could remove it from my movie to see list.  Now I'm  behind again.  Sorry Captain Phillips, hopefully next weekend but this weekend belongs to Sly and Arnold.

monkeyfoot 10/18/2013 6:06:26 AM

Yeah, this looks like good ole fashioned 80 action fun done more scaled down than the Expendables. Hopefully, I can squeeze it in this weekend.

hanso 10/18/2013 7:14:10 AM

At least this looks better than the new Stallone/DeNiro boxing movie, and it has to be better than Bullet to the. Head and The Last Stand.

Tevii 10/18/2013 12:00:13 PM

Im looking forward to this. Im a big fan of Stallone's even though Bullet to the Head happened. (Momoa and Stallone were the only things good about it)


thezillaman 10/18/2013 12:16:55 PM

 yup, gonna watch this with my son hes more excited than

thezillaman 10/18/2013 12:42:45 PM

 yup, gonna watch this with my son hes more excited than

VTGamehendge 10/18/2013 1:14:24 PM

Just another add to my lengthy list of "wanna see." 

BTW, I saw Gravity the other night.  Utterly amazing.  Loved it.  Not very often that a single movie can evoke so many emotions.  And some of them simultaneously.  I mean, it's got joy and despair and sorrow and serenity.  Again, I loved it.  My favorite movie remains Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, but Gravity might be one of the best movies I've ever seen.

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