Wesley Emblidge ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Without a doubt, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most iconic role is that of the sentient killing machine, The Terminator. Although he’s first billed and on the poster, he’s hardly the lead of the movie, rather he’s the villain, which ends up working in his favor. 29 years after that film, it’s evident that he’s best suited as a secondary character, this time supporting a bland Sylvester Stallone in Escape Plan. There isn’t much to like in the cliched prison escape action movie, but Schwarzenegger’s moments of levity make it at least somewhat pleasurable to sit through.
Ray Breslin (a growling husk of a man that was once the Oscar nominated actor Stallone) is “the best in the business” when it comes to breaking out of prisons, and with his team (Amy Ryan, 50 Cent and Vincent D’Onofrio) he is hired by wardens to find the flaws in their security. You should know the drill here, he gets hired to do a job breaking out of the newest high tech prison, but things aren’t as they seem. He ends up betrayed and stuck in the prison with no way out, unless he can actually escape. He teams with Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to break out, and they work together along with another inmate (Faran Tahir) and the doctor (Sam Neill) to outsmart the warden (Jim Caviezel). There’s also an overarching mystery shoved in that really doesn’t work, as well as a few moments of potential political commentary that all go nowhere.
The movie has a lot of small issues, but two key problems rise to the top. At the forefront is Stallone, who seems bored out of his mind and even somewhat miscast in the film. He spends much of the running time talking about the technical aspects of the prison and can’t make it remotely interesting. There’s also the prison itself, which is meant to be the most expensive high-tech security facility ever built, but is really just a silly assemblage of glass boxes that evoke The Cabin in the Woods. Nothing seems high security; the inmates are allowed to walk around being social for some reason and their uniforms even have pockets. Aside from a few moments of torture, there’s nothing all that crazy about this prison, and that’s where the movie falters the most.
Yet there’s still Schwarzenegger, who gets just enough moments to make the movie enjoyable. Lines including “You punch like a vegetarian,” and scenes like the one where he draws a picture of a butt both add the right amount of silliness to a movie that would, without him, be somewhat bleak and boring. Credit should be given to Schwarzenegger, who seems much more engaged than his return to acting earlier this year in The Last Stand. The rest of the cast is forgettable in their underwritten roles, save perhaps Caviezel who isn’t exactly interesting, but at least pulls off the cliche “quiet but crazy” villain with some panache.
Ultimately, Escape Plan could be a lot worse, so perhaps it’s best to appreciate the things it does well. At the very least it’s a sign that Schwarzenegger’s career could go somewhere better than another The Terminator film or The Last Stand from here, and that the B-movie isn’t completely dead.