MRR Review:"Escape Plan"

Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment

MRR Review:"Escape Plan"

Rating: R Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2013
Directed by: Mikael Håfström
Genre: Action / Mystery / Thriller

Summer blockbusters tend to capitalize on the big explosions and tense fight scenes that defined the action film genre throughout the last decades of the 20th century. "Escape Plan" brings all of that action to an audience even after the summer season ends, combining some of the best action film stars of that bygone era with a plot reminiscent of "The Rock." The end result is an enjoyable romp that delivers a good mix of mystery and suspense alongside the expected antics of screen legends such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Escape Plan" delivers the tale of expert jailbreak artist Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone), who makes his money by proving that the most secure prison facilities in the world are imperfect. He accepts a contract from the CIA and finds himself in their most secure and secret facility. As his team works to help get him out, he discovers that he needs the help of an inmate named Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) if he is ever to escape the facility. What follows is a raucous trip through nostalgia as the movie teeters between action reminiscent of "Die Hard" and mystery subplots worthy of the most time-tested films of the genre. The story is a great nod to the classic action, mystery, and thriller films of the past. It is likely to be compared to "The Expendables" for bringing together action stars and letting them do what they do best.

The acting in the film is easily one of the two biggest advantages it possesses. Stallone provides a very real look into the life of a jailbreak artist, and Schwarzenegger delivers a very heartfelt performance, with one scene that will leave you stunned at the amount of emotional depth the Austrian legend can deliver. They are joined on screen by stellar performances from Vincent D'Onofrio, Amy Ryan, and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson as Breslin's teammates. One notable weakness in the casting is the choice of villains. Unfortunately, Jim Caviezel and Vinnie Jones seem almost stilted in their portrayals of the warden and the head of security. This may be due in part to the limited script and dialogue of these characters.

The film's cinematography captures the claustrophobic nature of the prison exceptionally well, but technical hiccups become obvious in the later parts of the movie. The illustrated floor plans devised by Breslin are more likely to elicit a chuckle from moviegoers than provide convincing plot points, and the lighting in the film may leave viewers squinting on more than one occasion. Transitions are done well, though, and the audio is exceptionally precise and crisp.

The story of "Escape Plan" is another of its greatest strengths, though the weaknesses of the villains shine through occasionally. Mystery elements are meticulously woven into the plot, leaving few viewers behind while developing an excellent tale to challenge even the most ardent of whodunit fans. The action sequences provide excellent breaks in the dialogue and plotting, and the dialogue between most characters is amazing. The villains, however, suffer the fate of coming across as mere cardboard cutouts of actual characters, lacking the additional dimensions that the jailbreak team and the prisoners have.

The film's direction is hit-and-miss. The casting decisions are good, and the choice of camera angles and presentation definitely leaves little to be desired. The pacing struggles at times, and the film feels like it's longer than needed to tell the story. Seemingly obvious filler moments crop up all too often; these neither advance the plot nor provide background information and are almost always tied to the villainous characters in some manner. Part of this may also arise from the script itself, but the jagged start-and-go pacing is unlikely to sit well with those looking for either a quick action film or a fun mystery movie.

"Escape Plan" has far more strong points than drawbacks. It delivers punch as an action film and provides excellent mental puzzles for mystery fans. The many clues scattered throughout the film and tension between almost every character give viewers of all sorts of opportunities to enjoy trying to solve its key puzzles. "Escape Plan" does an excellent job of meeting, and occasionally exceeding, the expectations of fans of three often disparate genres. For that reason, it's likely to find a home in the collections of mystery fans, thriller aficionados, and those who love a good late-20th-century action flick.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5