Escape Plan – 2013
Director Mikael Håfström
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Faran Tahir
Screenplay Miles Chapman, Jason Keller
Having skipped many of Sylvester Stallone’s mid ’80’s early ’90’s fare, such as Over The Top, Lock Up, Cobra, Oscar, Stop! or my Mom will Shoot, etc., I sometimes wondered if I was missing anything essential. When his career suffered a rapid decline after Cliffhanger, I stopped wondering so much. His career is an interesting one. Rocky Balboa is a humble man who defied the odds. For 4 of the 6 films, he is a very real and approachable character. For those other 2 films, however, Rocky was to large and only beatable when it served the story. This is model served as a microcosm for the rest of his career outside of one movie, James Mangold’s Cop Land.
The model is not unlike the style of films that John Wayne made at the end of his career. A bevy of character actors would show up in each film and give the great one “begrudging” respect as another stable of bad guys gave him just enough competition to succumb to the hero when the script demanded. Stallone finds a sense of gallantry in what he is doing. He puts himself through troubling situations, makes a speech or two about the injustice the bad guys are perpetrating and then after getting his ass kicked just a little, he wins. The difference between the two is that while the Duke grew in popularity, Stallone just grows in girth.
Enter into this equation another one just like himself, but with maybe just a little more self-awareness: Arnold Schwarzenegger. His movies have shared many of the same qualities as Stallone, but Arnie is in on the joke. He knows that he is a caricature, and he relishes the opportunity. Their efforts combined are entertaining, if not necessarily for the reasons that Stallone would envision.
There are several fights in the middle of Escape Plan. They are of the Hooper variety, where no one looks like they are getting hurt real bad. It still looked really painful, though. Arnie and Stallone getting slung to and fro. Each time I saw them on the ground getting pounded, I could not help but think of Ric Flair having a heart attack in the ring. This is not entertainment, unless y0u are into snuff films.
So many decent actors add their names to this film, but add nothing to the overall personality of the collective. They could be anyone. There is nary a Gabby Hayes or Ben Johnston among them. Not sure I say any Oscar nominations in the future for any of them, based on their work here.
Each concerted effort for Stallone is of interest to me, if only for his ability to get other actors to follow him into the abyss. The Expendables films, as much a mess as they are, somehow nabbed Harrison Ford in its third installment. There will always be a contingent of actors waiting for another chance to touch the brass ring. Stallone’s ring seems less shiny now. It’s more a lead weight than anything. Still, he keeps lifting it, while it pulls down everyone else it touches.
(*** out of *****)