Escape to ‘80s action!
Movie: Escape Plan; Director: Mikael Hafstrom; Studio: Summit Entertainment; Rating: R; My finding: 3 out of 5 stars.
As Oscar season hits us like the cold, you can expect a few lesser action movies and comedies to catch the interests of audiences tired of thinking too hard in the movie theater. This is one of them.
A lesser action movie it may be, but for anyone who grew up in the 1980s, or, like me, grew up with those movies anyway, this will be a sweet punch of nostalgia goodness. Chances are you’ve seen a movie produced by Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna during that decade, and while the super-duo aren’t producing this one, the work they’ve been involved in, from the Rambo series to the Terminator series – with a Jean Claude Van Damme flick or two thrown in for good measure – provided the DNA.
The story here is that over-the-top, non-action scenes can be stopgaps of annoyance, and supporting actors (including Curtis Jackson, better known by his rap name 50 Cent) can be painful, but it will leave a smile on your face.
Because, finally, the two biggest action stars of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, team up for longer than a scene (like in The Expendables 2) as they push 70 years old. And each one has a role that shows their individual strengths that made them the biggest stars.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a security expert who spends most of his life in maximum-security prisons only to escape, explain the flaws in the security which allowed him to escape, and then collect a hefty paycheck. He’s backed by his team made up of businessman Lester, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who has become wholly the role he developed for Law & Order: Criminal Intent; Abigail, The Office’s Amy Ryan, who seems to only serve to agree with Breslin and tech guru Hush (50 Cent).
It’s a team that seems to work remarkably well, even if their presentations to prison wardens can come off a little too cocksure in a nice, 30-years-old Hollywood way.
But now they’ve got a new job. There’s a privately funded prison system that can make all of the world’s worst people seemingly disappear, entirely, off the grid. The location is not disclosed. The setup is unknown. And of the very little information the team is able to find out, almost all of it is a lie to keep people guessing.
But the CIA is willing to pay top dollar – double his normal fees – to make sure it’s secure.
Of course, since you know the films that make up the blueprint for this one, everything is found out to be bogus immediately upon arrival and it will take nothing but immense, aging brawn to come out alive.
Stallone, as we like him to, plays the darker and more serious action hero. Always has, and apparently always will until the day he decides to die. But it’s perfect contrast to Schwarzenegger playing what we love him for: The sillier guy who gets things done without any remorse or even an inkling of having something to even shrug off.
“Commando,” “Predator,” “Terminator,” “Total Recall,” “Last Action Hero.”
Those aren’t just a list of my favorite films, but a legacy behind each one-liner pun, smirk and twinkle in the eye Schwarzenegger puts forth here as Emil Rottmayer.
Rottmayer takes a quick liking to Breslin and serves throughout the movie as almost a deus ex machina in his ability to easily and casually do the bidding of Breslin’s ongoing escape plan.
Mercifully, the terrible director Mikael Hafstrom backs off and lets the movie be the characters, because it’s not much else.
There are at least two moments of outright glee in this film: When Schwarzenegger speaks German, his native language, for the first time ever on screen, and when he rips a machine gun off of a helicopter in slow motion – building up the applause that will rise from the audience – to eradicate hundreds of people. And those things, alone, make this popcorn feast worth watching.
(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews appear in Thursday’s Arts &?Entertainment section.)