Movie review: 'Escape Plan' plot saps noted tough guys

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It's not exactly "I'll be back" but Arnold Schwarzenegger can still toss off a one-liner with accented ease. Taking a punch from Sylvester Stallone, he scoffs, "You hit like a vegetarian."

Mr. Stallone responds by treating him as though he were a side of beef in a meat locker in "Escape Plan," an action movie mainly set in a mysterious, off-the-grid prison where the worst criminals in the world are "disappeared."

Sly is Ray Breslin, an expert in prison escapes -- masterminding, executing and preventing. He goes undercover behind bars, figures out a way to break out, does so and then informs the warden where the security holes exist.

'Escape Plan'

2 stars = Mediocre
Ratings explained

  • Starring:

    Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel.

  • Rating:

    R for violence and language throughout.

But when Ray agrees, for millions of dollars, to work for the CIA at a privately run maximum security prison, he is cut off from his co-workers on the outside world and unable to convince the menacing warden (Jim Caviezel) that he doesn't belong there.

The only way out will be a great escape, and to have any chance of that, he has to ally himself with another tough guy, Emil Rottmayer (Mr. Schwarzenegger). Truth be told, though, everyone is a tough guy in The Tomb, a drab, windowless honeycomb of glass cells where Ray's usual tools -- prison layout, routine and help from outside or inside -- may be impossible to come by.

If real-life astronauts criticized "Gravity" because Sandra Bullock's hair doesn't appear to float around her head, I can only imagine what incarceration experts might say about "Escape Plan." It grows more improbable by the minute, even for an action movie, and it springs surprises without properly planting the seeds for them.

Actors of the caliber of Sam Neill and Amy Ryan are wasted in anemic roles and stunt casting comes in Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as a street-smart computer wizard. Also turning up: Vinnie Jones as a ruthless prison guard, Faran Tahir as another prisoner, and Vincent D'Onofrio as Ray's business partner.

Nevertheless, Mr. Caviezel -- who memorably starred in "The Passion of the Christ" and is an ex-CIA agent on CBS's "Person of Interest" -- makes a dandy villain, and it's certainly fun to see these iconic actors who could collect Medicare (Rocky is 67, The Terminator, 66) join forces and act as though they were half their ages.

Of course despite severe, frequent beatings, not to mention Tasering, the occasional stabbing and a new variation on waterboarding involving a hose forcing gushing water into a prisoner's mouth while he's restrained on the floor, no one bears many scars. Even someone bleeding from the gut rallies for a last hurrah.

They can go the distance, even if the story with its severely underdeveloped threads and characters cannot.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM


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