Stallone. Schwarzenegger. The two names have cast a long shadow over the action genre since the 80’s, but the two titanic presences have only shared the screen a handful of times – most recently in macho meat fest Expendables 2. Escape Plan, then, is a film many have been waiting for since at least 1987, as its the first time the pair plays off each other for an entire film for the first time.
Prison security expert Ray Breslin (Stallone) spends most of his time breaking out of the world’s most formidable prisons to test security systems to their limit. But when he’s deceived and wrongfully in hi-tech mega jail “The Tomb”, he is forced to join together fellow inmate Emil Rothmeyer (Schwarzenegger) devise a seemingly impossible escape and learn the truth behind his betrayal.
While the prospect of the two action legends sharing the bill is enticing, it’s Arnie who walks away with the film. Stallone is his usual, dependable – if barley comprehensible – self, but its Schwarzenegger who hurls himself into this moderately budgeted thriller with aplomb. It’s his charisma that really drives the film and the film suffers when he’s not on screen. Naturally, Arnie steals many of the best lines and even impresses in the acting stakes for once by breaking into a German-spoken fit of feigned madness in order to further their escape attempts.
However, while there’s tonnes of fun to be had watching Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s interactions, Director Mikael Håfström’s film can’t help but retread old prison movie clichés – There’s an eccentric, savage warden in the form of John Caviezal and a sadistic brute of a head guard in potato-headed Vinnie Jones – and utilises a twist that seems illogical and out of place.
Sam Neil is completely wasted as The Tomb’s resident doctor who barely has characterisation beyond being a tool to push the plot along plot. Perhaps the most bizarre casting choice is Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as computer expert Hush. Although the action genre heavily relies on the suspension of disbelief, believing that 50 Cent could be a cyber-whizz doesn’t so much require suspension as it does complete obliteration.
Aesthetically, it’s a mixed bag. While the cinematography is nothing to shout about, the art direction does give the impression of the hi-tech nature of the prison’s innards; all glass walls and neon strip lighting. This is falls down due to the tackiness of the guard’s uniforms and some shonky cgi.
On the whole, it’s an entertaining effort. It does however beg the question as to why Stallone took the lead rather than Schwarzenegger as the film slacks every time the Austrian Oak is off screen. Will it stand up in the canon of great action films? Probably not. But it is worth it just for the adolescent thrill of seeing two of the genres key players on screen together.