• Escape Plan



    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: February 4th, 2014.
    Director: Mickael Hafstrom
    Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vincent D’Onoffrio, Jim Caviezil
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie:

    During their eighties heyday, action fans yearned for a movie that would cast Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in starring roles, but it never happened and while they did appear together in The Expendables and its sequel, it wasn’t until 2013’s Escape Plan that they really ‘starred’ in a movie together. Was it worth the wait? Well, it’s hard to say but director Mickael Hafstrom’s prison film is at least a ridiculously entertaining movie even if it doesn’t quite feel like it meets all of its potential.

    Stallone plays Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone), a security specialist whose area of expertise is prisons. In fact, he’s basically written the text book on how to really and truly secure a prison and when we meet him, he’s making his way out of a joint to prove his point. This is what he does, this is what he’s paid to do. His business partner is Lester Clark (Vincent D'Onofrio) who sets him up with a CIA agent who wants to offer him five million dollars to get locked up and then escape from a secret government facility that houses the worst of the worst, a prison that exists off the record. Those his associates, Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent) don’t think it’s a great idea Ray accepts the offer.

    And so he heads from Los Angeles to New Orleans, a tracker chip in his arm at Abigail’s request. He arrives at the meeting location and is knocked out, the chip carved out of his arm. He wakes up inside a huge facility lorded over by Hobbes (Jim Caviezil), a nasty warden who doesn’t seem to like anyone, not even his right hand thug, Drake (Vinnie Jones). It doesn’t take Ray long to realize that he’s been setup and sooner rather than later he starts to befriend a fellow inmate named Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger). As they get to know one another they set in motion an escape plan – you had to know that was coming – with some help from an Islamic fundamentalist named Javed (Faran Tahir). But will they make it out before Hobbes figures out what they’re up to, and even if they can bust out, will they even know where they are or how to get back to civilization?

    Escape Plan is a movie that could and should have gone further with its premise than it does. The movie was in a perfect situation to make some sort of statement about prison facilities, about the incarceration of inmates under clandestine circumstances without a proper trial by jury under conditions that are kept top secret. It never does that, at least not outsize of playing Hobbes as a bad guy, and as such, it doesn’t quite grip you the way a really good politically oriented thriller could.

    Once you move past that, however, Escape Plan is a lot of fun. It’s not a movie in the least bit concerned with realism but it is packed with amusing characters, a fair bit of humor, a lot of slick style and some pretty intense action set pieces. The design work on display in the prison scenes is impressive even if some noticeably poor CGI takes us out of things a couple of times, and the movie makes great use of sound to help create atmosphere and tension. There are some pretty giant plot holes and more than one spot where the film stretches things past the point of believability but it delivers pretty much exactly what you want – and that’s Stallone and Schwarzenegger teaming up to fight the bad guys. On that level, it works rather well. They both use their screen presence effectively here and Schwarzenegger actually manages to get some pretty solid comedic elements out of his character while his co-star more or less plays the straight man. Supporting work from Caviezil as the completely despicable warden is fine, while Vinnie Jones plays the same type of over the top character he always plays but at least does it well. D'Onofrio and Ryan are underused but do fine work but this is one where going in you’ll want to turn off your brain ahead of time. It isn’t deep, ever, but it does let the two stars beat lots of people up, shoot lots of guys and cause plenty of visually appealing carnage and mayhem. It is, unfortunately and rather predictably, pretty brainless but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good, dumb fun.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Escape Plan arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.39.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Colors really light up here (at least outside, when we’re in the prison, things are dark and dreary – just as they should be) and in general the transfer really pops. At the same time, the colors don't bleed, they stay really well defined and distinct. Black levels are nice and deep, while shadow detail stays strong throughout, which is important considering how much of this movie takes place inside a giant, gloomy looking prison. There were no obvious compression artifacts to note and nothing to complain about at all in terms of print damage. Skin tones look lifelike and natural while detail impresses throughout the film. There are some quirks to the image but this are obviously intentional and within the context of the story being told, they work quite well. As this was shot on HD video, there are obviously no issues with print damage. A few shots look a little softer than others, likely the way that the movie was shot, but overall the movie looks great in HD.

    The main audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track, though a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is offered up in Spanish and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track in English. Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and French as well. The 7.1 mix is just as aggressive and impressive as you could hope. The action scenes, particularly that helicopter sequence towards the end, have plenty of amazing directional effects and the track is consistently using all of the channels in the mix. The score sounds excellent as do the effects but thankfully they’re mixed in such a way that even when it all hits the fan, you can still clearly hear the dialogue without any issues. This is a reference quality track, a top notch mix that will really let you get some serious use out of your surround sound system.

    The extras on the disc start off with an audio commentary from the film’s director Mikael Håfström who is joined by co-writer Miles Chapman. It’s a pretty thorough track that gives us all the requisite background information we could want on the movie, how the script came about, how the casting came to be, what locations were used and some of the technical issues that arose during the shoot.

    From there move on to the featurettes, starting with the twenty-two minute Executing The Plan: The Making Of Escape Plan. This is a decent enough look at what went into putting this picture together made up of some decent behind the scenes interviews and some slightly less involved interviews with the cast and crew than you might have hoped for. The talks here really just scratch the surface of what this movie could have been. Quite interesting is the inclusion of a twenty-two minute piece called Maximum Security: The Real Life Tomb which actually takes us into some of the maximum security prisons in the United States that were the genesis for this picture. Interviews with prison experts, employees and wardens give us some insight into what it’s like dealing with the day to day operations of running a facility that exists only to house those whom society has deemed unfit. The sixteen minute Clash Of The Titans examines the involvement of the film’s two leading men, who appear here together in starring roles for the first time (Arnold’s supporting roles in the two Expendables movies aren’t starring roles).

    Additionally, we get eight minutes of Deleted Scenes (eleven scenes in total) that add a bit of depth to some of the movie and which actually could have made for a better story had they been left in. Menus and chapter stops are also included as is a DVD version of the movie and a download code for a Digital Copy. The case comes housed inside a slipcase that features identical cover art. There’s no trailer for the feature here but previews for other Lionsgate action film properties play before the main menu screen loads.

    The Final Word:

    As any sort of serious take on the morality of the prison system, Escape Plan is an absolute failure but as a Stallone/Schwarzenegger team up, the kind of movie that puts action and entertainment value way ahead of realism? It’s a really fun watch. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray looks great and sounds even better and rounds itself out nicely by including some surprisingly solid extra features. Good stuff!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!