MANILA, Philippines – I was sold on the pitch alone: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger break out of prison together. Sure, it sounds corny as hell, but to a specific audience, which would include me and a bunch of senior citizens who clapped loudly throughout the screening I went to, this kind of movie has its appeal. Without the cast that it boasts, which includes other names like Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, and 50 Cent, this could surely have been direct to DVD or made for TV pap. But as it stands, it’s an entertaining movie for its target audience.
The movie operates as if the last 30 years didn’t happen. Sure there are nods to the post-9/11 paradigm, black ops, and clandestine agencies, and stuff like that. But the majority of the film, set in a maximum security facility that is effectively off the grid, operates oblivious to time or contemporary action aesthetics. And I love the film for it.
Weight and impact
There’s a lot to love about classic ’80s action flicks. Characters weren’t tortured men with complicated feelings. Here, well, they are just tortured by their captors. But in characters who are drawn in broad strokes, enabled by the larger-than-life personas of the actors who played them, there was a lot more opportunity for big action to happen. And that big action was done without the help of CG or fancy camera work. It felt real. Things had weight and impact. If anyone has a commitment to hits that look real, it’s Stallone who has on a number of occasions suffered from actual bodily harm because he took real hits from his co-stars in previous films.
Almost the whole film occurs inside of The Tomb, a top-secret detention facility. The limited and claustrophobic settings help to keep the run of the film tight and contained. Stallone’s Breslin, a man who escapes from prisons for a living, takes a job testing The Tomb. But he quickly finds that the parameters of the contract have changed, and someone has actually decided to bury him in there.
He finds an ally in Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer, and together the two set a plan in action to take down the facility and its uncompromising warden, played by Caviezel. Schwarzenegger essentially plays an amalgam of previous roles, turning on the charm and the machismo. Stallone’s playing your standard good guy with the tragic past. And Caviezel, though sans facial hair, inhabits the role of mustache-twirling villain.
Again, it’s all played in broad strokes, and when certain character revelations are made, they usually don’t make as much sense as you would like them to. But the lapses in narrative logic are made up for with excitement and good, raw action.
The thing about any prison break flick is that a lot of enjoyment is to be had from the difficulty of breaking out, and the ingenuity that the characters must apply to break out. On these two counts, Escape Plan is innovative. Hard to explain how without spoiling things, but the sleek presentations and the holy-moly so-this-is-what’s-going-on moments make for a lot of fun. While it isn’t the most intricate puzzle of a film, the movie delivers on keeping viewers enticed by the different attempts that the characters make to compromise defenses and break out.
I will reiterate that this is a film for a specific audience. And it is well aware of the audience it is speaking to. It’s a movie with a limited budget, obviously targeted at the foreign markets that made movies like “Expendables” and “Rambo” profitable ventures. It speaks to viewers who remember a heyday when this film’s stars dominated the Hollywood box office. If you have a love for ’80s action films, “Escape Plan” is something you won’t want to miss. – Rappler.com
Here’s the trailer from the YouTube of CineFix:
Carljoe Javier teaches English and Creative Writing at the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature. He is an enthusiast and scholar of pop culture.
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