Action film icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger join forces to break out of the world’s most high-tech prison in 2013’s Escape Plan, now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. It’s an action-packed, if somewhat mindless, thriller that casts Stallone as Ray Breslin, a professional prison escape artist who tests the effectiveness of maximum security prisons on behalf of the government. But when someone (and it’s pretty obvious who) sets him up for a lifetime in The Tomb, a prison designed according to Ray’s own specifications, he has to rely on the aid of fellow inmate Emil (Schwarzenegger) if he hopes to reclaim his freedom.
Like any prison break movie worth watching, Escape Plan centers largely on the development of Ray’s process for escaping The Tomb, specifically the minutiae and meticulous planning such an endeavor requires. And in theory, the more such a plan relies on small details, the more inherently suspenseful it is for viewers. Knowing that the protagonist’s freedom rests in the hands of other inmates with fickle allegiances or realizing that a guard is but a moment away from spying a key component of the escape puts us on edge and invests us in the proceedings. And in large part, Escape Plan adheres to this formula. Where it loses a touch of its effectiveness in this regard, though, is in the complexity of The Tomb itself, requiring an over-complicated plan involving shoot-outs and high-tech gadgetry. Typically, the minutiae of a cinematic prison break should be less important in the climax than brute force to maintain that aforementioned suspense. While Escape Plan indeed relieves itself of the prison break film’s inherent suspense in this way, the climactic shoot-outs are at least entertaining enough in their own right that we can forgive some of this.
Where the film entirely falls apart, however, is in its closing minutes. The last five minutes or so of the third act serve as an enormous exposition dump with unwelcome twists and turns aplenty. In fact, virtually the entire plot is explained only in those closing moments. And it’s too much, too late really. Having been concealed from us throughout the preceding hour and a half or so of the picture when everything happened, this information adds nothing to our enjoyment of/investment in the titular escape plan itself. Some events therein certainly required explanation. I’ll give you that. However, as presented it feels more like the writers simply forgot to put that stuff in the movie and arbitrarily tacked it on to the end rather than pursuing a rewrite.
This doesn’t take away from the experience entirely, though. There’s still much to enjoy about Escape Plan if you’re looking for some escapist entertainment (seriously, no pun intended). As I mentioned earlier, the escape plan is augmented by some solid shoot-outs, which makes for an adequately thrilling climax.
What’s more, Schwarzenegger, who’s never really been known for his acting skills per se, is actually quite terrific here—at his peak as a performer to be sure. He’s not merely flexing and killing and spouting off one-liners (although he does have some one-liners). Instead, he plays an intelligent character intelligently and even seems to make some genuine connections with the other characters. Faran Tahir (Iron Man), who plays the third member of the climax’s attempted escapees, proves to be an incredible badass in his own right. And the cast is rounded out by Jim Caviezel, Vinnie Jones, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Sam Neill.
The majority of special features compiled for the home video release of Escape Plan are available exclusively on the Blu-ray release, which includes:
-Audio commentary with Director Mikael Hafstrom and Co-Writer Miles Chapman;
-”Executing the Plan: The Making of Escape Plan” featurette;
-”Maximum Security: The Real-Life Tomb” featurette, which discusses real-world maximum security prisons;
-”Clash of the Titans” featurette, about Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s fight scene;
-and deleted scenes.