Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jim Caviezel, Vinnie Jones, Amy Ryan, 50 Cent | Written by Miles Chapman, Jason Keller | Directed by Mikael Halfstrom
After two box office disappointments, The Last Stand and Bullet To The Head, two of action’s greatest ever stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone come together for the first film in which they properly, actually, legitimately star with each other, the thriller Escape Plan.
Bursting forth with all the bravura and inherent silliness of the two men’s action heyday, Escape Plan feels very much like a throwback to a time when action films didn’t rely on special effects or young, hot stars instead giving us a world where Stallone can hook up with Amy Ryan and Schwarzenegger can have a slow-motion whip around shot on his eyes as he first manages to get a gun. On these terms, Escape Plan does exactly what it says on the tin and those who would seriously complain about the film are people who probably wouldn’t really want to watch it in the first place.
Director Mikael Halfstrom, who last gave us the unique sight of Anthony Hopkins exorcising a pillow in The Rite, does a fairly nuts and bolts job with his work here. Cleanly shot, pacey in the spots that really require it with a third act which hits the ground running and doesn’t stop and importantly not getting in his stars way, he crafts an enjoyable ride for our heroes to take part in.
What does surprise somewhat is how one member of the central duo seems to be more into proceedings than the other. Despite very definitely being the lead, Sylvester Stallone’s laconic and slow delivery and mannerisms don’t really fit right with the character. While the idea of Stallone being this character is already a stretch, he doesn’t display the vitality you really want out of him. Schwarzenegger on the other hand looks like he’s having a ball. Almost constantly smiling aside from one surprisingly impressive scene where he acts in his native tongue and is actually very believeable, he punches, quips and acts cheeky to everyone else throughout. It has the air of an actor letting off steam and by not carrying the film, his ease with the material really shines through and in one moment with a massive grin on his face, members of the audience in my screening broke into applause, and what a pleasure that is.
The rest of the cast are made up of “him/her.. really?” parts who all do their jobs well enough. Jim Caviezel and Vinnie Jones give good sinister bad guy and sadistic henchman respectively, Amy Ryan and 50 Cent provide a break from the action with exposition fun every now and then and Sam Neill turns up in what’s essentially an extended cameo which provides little more than a plot device despite it being fun to see him on the big screen again.
Escape Plan is a film where it’s easy to recommend if you like the sound of it. Doing nothing more than what you expect but doing that well enough, it’s a fun time to be had and one I hope gets better luck than the veteran action duo’s recent work.
Escape Plan is in UK cinemas now.