The problem with The Escape Plan, ironically, is the casting. I’m guessing the casting director wasn’t alive in the 80s, or he would’ve known that Arnie and Sly are not ‘actors’ per se – they’re movie stars. So put them in a movie together and you don’t get two famous actors playing off each other, you get two idiosyncratic stars acting at each other.”
Have we not had enough of the wrongfully-incarcerated-bible-carrying-prison-escapee trope yet? No? OK then. Lets review.
Sylvester Stallone plays a professional escape artist, hired by the prison system to test the security of their maximum security prisons. Then one day a pretty blonde woman comes along and tells him they’ve developed the first totally inescapable prison and they need him to test it out. No problem, right? Wrong.
Turns out this prison is run by the sadistic Jim Caviezel (Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ), and now his only hope to escape is new friend and first time co-star, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So some shady international cabal of whoever develops this super maximum security prison to house all the really bad apples that no government wants to deal with? OK, I’ll buy that. Even if, well, wouldn’t it make more sense to just kill these guys?
But then this shady organisation hires the very man whose work on prison security was used as a reference guide in the construction of this prison to come along and break out of it? OK, I’ll buy that too. Even if, well, wouldn’t it make more sense just to kill anyone who tries to escape?
Then, the warden of this prison allows the prison escapee extraordinaire to remain in the general population despite discovering his efforts to escape because there is a slim chance Sly will be able to extract some information he needs from Arnie’s character? You know what, I’ll buy that too. Because story is not the problem here. It’s drama.
There is zero drama in this movie. Every time Sly concocts some hair brained scheme as part of his escape, it’s met by a “Hell no!”, quickly followed by an “OK, lets do it!”. After the initial getting to know you and mandatory cafeteria fight, everybody seems happy to work together. Somehow this impregnable fortress turns out to be super pregnable, and the majority of the movie is just a bunch of tired prison break tropes that have all been done better before elsewhere.
The best parts of the movie are when Arnie gets to let loose. Either during an early scene where he needs to create a distraction and starts rambling in German, or later on when he goes full Commando during the last leg of the escape. Sly’s stone faced determination kind of falls flat against Arnie’s effortless charm – and he really doesn’t give Arnie much to work with.
It’s a shame we never got to see these two together in their prime, maybe even watch them go tet-a-tet as hero and villain like the iconic action heroes they were. It could’ve been something glorious – an epic meta-battle for the ages. Maybe they still could. Maybe they’re not too old. But then again I’m not sure it could top Vin Diesel Vs The Rock in Fast Five. Unfortunately, if this film is anything to go by – I’m guessing we’ll never know.