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A-list actors help 'Escape Plan' exceed expectations

Oct. 25, 2013 @ 04:55 PM

This movie is much better than it deserves to be, and it shows what a couple of "A List" actors can do for a pretty standard plot and visualization.

While most will agree that both Stallone and Schwarzenegger are not in the Top 10 on anybody's Best Thespian List, they have always been quite a draw for the "action movie" crowd.

And, to be quite honest, I thought that after Arnold's two cameos in the "Expendables" movies and his weak showing in "The Last Stand," that he was pretty much retired from doing motion pictures.

However, in "Escape Plan" he is back in top form, not hiding from the fact that he is no spring chicken, nor parodying it either (think "Expendables" and "Grudge Match"). He is tough, like always, but still gives off the feeling of old age creeping slowly up his muscles.

Stallone, on the other hand, is still playing younger than his true age, and doing it well, although when you have as many close-ups as this movie, you can't help but see age in a face that more and more resembles "Droopy" the cartoon canine.

That being said, "Escape Plan" takes a familiar premise (I was anticipating a "Tango & Cash" movie, with Schwarzenegger replacing Kurt Russell), and updates it with some very nice twists and turns.

Director Mikael Hafstrom ("Derailed," "Evil," "Vendetta") has physically developed an ultramodern SuperMax prison, where most modern technology is visible, and where CGI makes most of it entirely believable. The fact that it is so contained (don't want to give anything away), brings up a few issues of logistics -- but only a few.

The subplot about who is behind the incarceration is so weakly developed that it should either have been reinforced, or been left out altogether. His idea that a person who breaks out of prisons for a living should be so easily duped is incredulous, although it DOES fit in with Stallone's legendary stupid look...

All of the backup acting was well done with second-tier players like Jim Caviezel ("Person of Interest," as a fairly creepy Warden Hobbes and Vincent D'Onofrio ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Full Metal Jacket," "Mystic Pizza") as Lester Clark.

Faran Tahir ("Elysium," "Warehouse 13," "Iron Man") also turns in a good performance as Javed.

Sam Neill ("Jurassic Park," "Dead Calm," "The Hunt for Red October") is almost unrecognizable as Dr. Kyrie, and rapper 50 Cent ("Get Rich, or Die Tryin'," "Real Steel," "The Hangover") makes another nice short term appearance as Hush.

Veteran actress Amy Ryan ("The Office," "The Wire," "War of the Worlds") is a great choice as the eye candy. Director Hafstrom went unconventional with the love interest of an older guy, being 40-something, instead of the traditional hot young chick who is barely old enough to vote.

Watch for a great Vinnie Jones ("Elementary," "Snatch," "Swordfish") performance as Drake, the Henchman. Although he almost always plays a heavy, it this movie he stands out as much as the stars.

This is a nice action movie, with a lot of heart, not to be dismissed because of its lackluster advertising. It is no sleeper, either, and will not make much of a profit, although you will find yourself rewatching it 10 years from now on cable.

For the present, if the weather gets too cold and the rain drives your free time indoors, you could do a lot worse than an "Escape Plan"...

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.

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