Film: "Escape Plan"; Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Amy Ryan and Farhan Tahir; Director: Mikael Hafstrom; Rating: ***
With a wafer-thin plot line and two iconic action heroes in one frame, "Escape Plan" offers a predictably rousing fare that could act as a tutorial for prisoners intending to break free.
The film begins in a very linear, clandestine fashion where a prisoner (Sylvester Stallone), after escaping from the tightly secured Bendwater Penitentiary Institution, Colorado, reveals to the officials that he is Ray Breslin, a consultant and security expert who exposes the vulnerabilities of the state prisons. He further gives the jailor a step-by-step detailed account of how he managed to break free.
While the jail officials are not happy with the revelation, the CIA approaches Ray Breslin and his team with an assignment to check the loopholes in one of the new facility for the world's most dangerous criminals. The whereabouts of this facility are not disclosed for security reasons.
Lured with a promising fee, Breslin's manager pushes him to accept the offer saying, "I am the numbers guy and you are the artist who can escape from any prison made by man." Breslin concedes.
The flow of events doesn't go as planned. Nevertheless, Breslin lands up in this tightly secured place and finds himself at the mercy of the prison's sadistic warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel). After evaluating his chances of escape as practically impossible, he reveals his true identity to Hobbes. But the warden refuses to listen, leaving him with no alternative but to try the impossible.
The first 30 minutes of the film drags, though there is ample action - both physical and verbal. The screen lights up only when Stallone hooks up with Schwarzenegger to collaborate against Hobbes and his cronies.
Though Mikael Hafstrom's film is spiked with intelligent analytical skills, bullets, brawls and wit, the film lacks the punch. While the actors punch each other, the entire action seems fake and anticipated in an especially drawn-out plot.
In fact, at one stage when Schwarzenegger mockingly informs Stallone, "You hit like a vegetarian", it just makes you realise how true he is.
Stallone and Schwarzenegger, both action heroes have intense harmony on screen. They complement each other with their histrionics and banter. While Schwarzenegger is charismatic and chirpy, Stallone broods with his constantly grumpy mannerisms. What's more? The exposition of Breslin's motive is lost in Stallone's drawl, thereby killing the entire emotional spirit of the tale.
Jim Caviezel is sleek and polished as the sharp and wicked warden. His soft-spoken intellectualism contrasts well against the beefy pair.
The film is supported by a team of brilliant actors that include, Sam Neill as Dr. Emil Kaikev, Farhan Thahir as Javeed, Vincent D'Onofrio as Lester Clark, Breslin's Manager and Amy Ryan as Abigail, Breslin's colleague. They provide extra seriousness to the narration that the script doesn't really deserve.
The production value of the film is good. The vertical cells with glass walls and frugal layout patrolled by identically masked men gives a very futuristic feel.
What's good about Escape Plan is that it is clean and not at all contemptuous till the very end.
Watch it if you are Stallone or Schwarzenegger fans.