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Article by Teddy Durgin

Make a Break for Escape Plan

My one prevailing thought leaving my screening of "Escape Plan" the other night was... "Why didn't Arnold and Sly team up in the 1980s when they were in their prime?!" It would have been HUGE! I'm talkin' $150 million box office guaranteed (in Reagan-era dollars), a hit Survivor song on the soundtrack, the poster on every Gen X musclehead's bedroom wall. It would have been huge, no matter what the plot was. But, hey, at least it finally happened - Sly and Arnie in the same movie, on camera together for nearly the entire running time. Children of the '80s can now cross this one off their movie bucket list. The two aging beefcakes join forces, shoot guns, beat the hell out of guys, and take on a slimy evil prison warden named Hobbes (Jim Caviezel). Stallone plays Ray Breslin, who is hired by the world's prisons to test their security. So far, he has managed to escape from 14 of the world's most maximum-security correctional facilities. One day, a CIA agent (Caitrona Balfe) comes to his firm's office and presents him with a proposal too tempting to turn down: the U.S. government will pay him $5 million to see if he can break out of "The Tomb," its most super-secret, super-secure, super high-tech detention complex. He agrees. But once the mission begins, it is clear he has been set up. The warden seeks to brutalize him. The tracking device his staff put inside him is removed. The inmates are all placed in glass cages with no privacy. And Breslin is suspicious of a European terrorist named Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) who immediately befriends and defends him. I liked "Escape Plan." I really did. But I can't help feeling that this script was at some point intended for two more... uh... cerebral leads. I could easily see these roles being played by the likes of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Denzel Washington and so forth. For the first two-thirds, this is more of an intellectual thriller than the usual bare-knuckles actioner we are used to seeing these two in. Breslin is supposed to be super-intuitive. And God bless him, Sly does his best to mouth a lot of expository dialogue. But he's just not THAT guy. He's the guy who gets put behind bars and has to slug his way out, not think his way out. Schwarzenegger's role is much more suited to him. He even gets a stretch of the film where he speaks - well, mostly screams - in German. And he's never delivered such believable dialogue on screen before. The cast is also uncommonly good for what you come to expect in a Stallone or Schwarzenegger film, again leading me to believe that this was a different concept that got changed possibly very close to the time of production. In addition to Caviezel, the talent roster here includes Sam Neill, Amy Ryan and Vincent D'Onofrio all in under-written supporting roles that seem to have been diminished to give more time to the Sly-Arnie team-up that is indeed the draw here. But Miles Chapman and Jason Keller's screenplay is also flexible enough to support a third-act blast of action that boasts all of the things you want in this kind of flick. I'm talkin' Stallone going toe to toe with Vinnie Jones in an extended fight; Schwarzengger ripping a big gun off a helicopter and spraying hordes of nameless, faceless prison guards with bullets; and a final comeuppance for the main bad guy complete with not one, but two cheesy Arnold/Sly one-liners. Sure, at this point Arnold is pretty much the physical embodiment of a Black Forest oak and Stallone looks like one of the middle transformations of the old Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk. But I'd rather escape the real world for a couple of hours with these two and their goofy, throwaway flick than stay topside with all of the craziness that's been going on recently. "Escape Plan" IS an escape.


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