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ESCAPE PLAN
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Audio: Dolby Atmos, DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Lionsgate
Features: See Review
Length: 115 Minutes
Release Date: June 5, 2018

You hit like a vegetarian.”

Film **1/2

During their heyday as action movie titans, it seemed virtually impossible to have Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger headline a movie together, let alone share a scene for even a minute. During the 80s and 90s, they were extremely competitive with each other to the point that one would try to get his hands on a screenplay before the other could. In fact, it was this very notion that Arnie took advantage of by pretending to express interest in a project called Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, which poor Sly fell for as he ended up making what he now considers the worst movie he’s ever made.

So when The Expendables arrived in 2010, audiences got a taste of seeing the two action movie legends on screen together. However, it would be in very limited capacity as they only shared a couple of scenes together. It would be three years later (which also saw The Expendables 2 in the time between) when we would see the ultimate team up of Sly and Arnie audiences had only dreamed of witnessing.

And here we are with Escape Plan, which ends up not being as memorable an action movie endeavor as one would want with such two big names...but at the same time is somewhat better than it has any right to be. The plot consists of Ray Breslin (Stallone), who works for a security firm and who specializes in going undercover in prisons and breaking out of them as a way of detecting its flaws. His latest job ends up being something of a double cross, as Ray finds himself placed in an elaborate, high level security prison known as The Tomb (which was the original title of the movie).

Finding himself housed in the most elaborate prison setup he’s ever seen, which also happens to be home to all the dangerous terrorists in the world, Ray’s expertise has been put to the extreme test. It also doesn’t help that the prison warden, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), is about as sinister as many of the residents. With his connection from his work associates completely cut off, Ray has to work quickly to find out how to break out and, more importantly, where exactly the prison is located (which does lead to quite a neat revelation).

Along the way, he does find an ally in Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger). He is not a terrorist but has rather been imprisoned as a way of getting to his mysterious employer. He agrees to help Ray execute his breakout plan, under various conditions of course.

As you would expect, there is a real kick to seeing Sly and Arnie sharing a lot of screen time together. Their byplay results in some memorable moments, most notably when the two stage a prison brawl. And Arnie has a couple humorous lines that go beyond simple one liners, like one where he speaks “eloquently” of another guy’s mother.

The movie also sports a rather impressive production design as far as the interior of the prison itself. Director Mikael Hafstrom also directed the very good horror movie 1408, which made tremendous use of it’s limited hotel room setting. Here, Hafstrom applies the same qualities with this prison, which does come across as extensively elaborate.

There’s one facet of this movie that cannot be ignored, and that is Jim Caviezel as the villainous warden, which can best be described as odd at best. I don’t know exactly what he was going for, but Caviezel has pulled off the rarest of feats by simultaneously over-acting and under-acting with this character (at one point, unless I’m going crazy, he seems to have slipped in something of a British accent during a taunting speech). And when you take into account that Caviezel is easily associated with Jesus, his response to one of the prisoners saying “God is good” is both odd and ultimately hilarious.

Oh, and one other odd touch: we are supposed to buy 50 Cent has a computer hacker.

As an action thriller, Escape Plan is competently made and does get the job done in spots, but just doesn’t really add up to much in the end. Even in their near dinosaur form, audiences I think expect a little bit more from a movie that pairs up the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger than this movie ends up delivering. Though, it’s always a kick to see Arnie take command of a machine gun, which provides the movie’s biggest action highlight.

Video ***1/2

The movie has been given a most tremendous 4K UHD upgrade from Lionsgate. The presentation really shines when the movie enters its prison setting, where in which the details of the interior seem to pop out a little bit more! The color pallete is mostly that of grays and steel blues, which also appear in better form this time around. Some numerous green screen work in later scenes don’t pan out as well, but that’s a minor complaint. Overall, a most solid 4K upgrade!

Audio ****

The DTS HD mix serves this tense action thriller terrifically well. Again, the prison setting provides numerous for this presentation to shine. In this case, that of ambient surroundings, most notably that of noises within prison riots and elements associated with various cat and mouse pursuits. Gun shots and explosions playoff amazingly, and the balance between dialogue delivery and music playback is of top tier quality!

Features ***

Lionsgate, once again, should be commended for being perhaps the only studio to include extras on both the 4K and regular Blu-ray disc. On this release, we have a commentary with director Mikael Hafstrom and co-writer Miles Chapman, as well as three well handled featurettes including “Executing the Plan: The Making of Escape Plan”, “Maximum Security: The Real-Life Tomb” and “Clash of the Titans”, the last of which focuses on the monumental team up of Sly and Arnie! Rounding out the extras are about eight minutes of Deleted Scenes.

Summary:

Escape Plan is quite the serviceable action thriller, with a star paring thirty years in the making. The result isn’t too memorable, but at the same time could’ve been so much less so. If anything, this is a grand example of an overall mixed bag. The 4K UHD release from Lionsgate, though, is a true home run!

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