Thursday, October 24, 2013

Escape Plan

As 2013 dawned, Arnold Schwarzenegger bombed with "The Last Stand" and Sylvester Stallone with "Bullet to the Head." Their new collaboration, "Escape Plan," is better than those pictures - good enough to kill a couple hours if you come across it on the tube.

Sly plays Ray Breslin, the world's foremost expert (stop laughing) on prison security. The Federal Bureau of Prisons hires him to go undercover as an inmate at their maximum-security facilities and, when he inevitably breaks out, to tell them what they're doing wrong. When a mysterious woman who claims to be CIA shows up at the office of Ray's business partner Lester (Vincent D'Onofrio) to propose a new mission at double his usual $2.5-mil pay, Les is all ears. He thinks Ray should do it - enter an unprecedented type of facility for those the agency wishes to "disappear," without his standard safeguards - and Ray, who would never accept, accepts. He flies to New Orleans, where he's kidnapped, his GPS transponder forcibly removed from inside his arm, and his evacuation code - well, what evacuation code, asks Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel)? Here, there's no such thing.

Ray quickly catches the eye of Rottmayer (Ah-nold, looking especially scraggly), an inmate who knows the whereabouts of the criminal mastermind Hobbes desperately wants to bring to his sadistic parlor. The facility is something to see - strata of stellate glass boxes, affording no privacy whatever, overseen by a randomly assigned phalanx of masked, anonymous guards. Still, Ray has some tricks up his sleeve - including turning the prison doctor (Sam Neill) against Hobbes. Neill angsts over what to do but finally musters the courage when he literally re-reads the Hippocratic Oath (okay, you can laugh again).

Co-writers Miles Chapman and Jason Keller have drafted a reasonably clever script, with a few really cool surprises; the scene where Ray discovers exactly where the prison is located (you'll never guess) is probably the best. Sly and the Governator have more fun together than in their solo projects, each cognizant of the silliness of the faux solemnity yet respectful enough of the other to help him grope his way through. And you've got to have a grudging admiration for any movie with the line, "You punch like a vegetarian."

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