Once titans of the box-office, now even together for the first time in co-starring roles, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger don’t make such a combustive coupling. Part of the problem is the kind of film that Mikael Hafstrom’s Escape Plan is: a puzzle thriller where bits and pieces of plot get combined to make a surprise end product. With Stallone somewhat miscast and some inappropriate slam bang action thrown in at the last minute for fans of the stars, the film doesn’t always seem to be on solid ground despite some undoubtedly clever ideas and some very engrossing sequences.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 56 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraVioletkeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/94/2014
Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is the world’s foremost authority on prison breaking. He’s so expert at it (over a dozen breaks from maximum security prisons over the course of less than a decade), he’s written a book that’s a foolproof manual on increasing security measures to make prisons more escape-proof. When a CIA security operative Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) presents a multi-million dollar deal to Breslin and his team: boss Lester Cross (Vincent D'Onofrio) and crew members (Amy Ryan, Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson) for attempting to break out of the most supermax prison in existence (called, we later learn, “The Tomb”), Breslin accepts the challenge even though he’ll be going in blind with no idea of his whereabouts and without access to his team. Once there, he finds himself in a glass cell maze lorded over by soft-spoken but lethal Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and with no seeming means of escape. Making one friend in longtime inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Breslin must endure hostile masked guards and a debilitating environment as he methodically begins to size up his situation and try to hatch an escape plan.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The screenplay by Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko (based on a story by Chapman) offers a fair share of surprises even from the beginning. Though the film is indeed about breaking out of a prison, the situation turns out to be so unusual and the twists are sometimes so novel that it can’t really be compared to the stars’ previous pictures like Lock Up or The Running Man which involved prisons and prisoners. There is some ingenuity afoot here even with the incredible suspension of disbelief needed to imagine Stallone as a wizard of ingenuity and craftiness who can make much out of little a la MacGyver. Action fans may get a little antsy that there is more cranial action than physical bombast, but they get their reward at the end with some (occasionally ludicrous) wicked firepower shown in the last reel. Until then, though, there’s the cat and mouse game of the warden trying to stay on top of his prized prisoner while the prisoner slowly forms a small network of allies who can help him achieve their escape. Director Mikael Hafstrom handles all of this deftly even if the pacing slows more than a little in the midsection of the movie. But the prison itself is such a novel idea with continual surprises revealed that it’s easy to simply let the movie go its way and let the viewer blindly follow in the best tradition of popcorn flicks. With better casting and some tempering of that final shootout (did Schwarzenegger really have to go into Commando/Terminator mode at the very end?), this could have been a memorable thriller rather than a passable one.
The original idea was for Sylvester Stallone to play the warden, and if he and Jim Caviezel (who can play both a man of action and a man of thought as he does weekly on Person of Interest) had switched roles, the film would have been instantly more effective. Stallone is more mush-mouthed than usual here, almost as if someone had anesthetized his tongue before his dialogue scenes, and he never seems believable as this intellectual man of means. Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, steals the movie with his high energy presence and a number of beautifully crafted lines spoken with his usual stilted but effective delivery. As the warden, Jim Caviezel is softly and efficiently menacing, and Vinnie Jones as his sadistic chief guard Drake makes a fitting villain. Talented actors like Amy Ryan and Vincent D'Onofrio are basically wasted in roles that don’t do justice to their talents though Faran Tahir has a good moment or two as a Muslim inmate who lends a hand, and Sam Neill is likewise good in a small but key role as a doctor. Along with the miscast Stallone, both Curtis Jackson (as a computer whiz) and the flat-voiced Caitriona Balfe as the CIA operative give embarrassingly inept performances.
The transfer is presented in its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is offered at 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very pleasing throughout, but color has been toned down somewhat with the resultant film having a brownish look. Skin tones all seem a bit on the brown side as well. Contrast has been consistently maintained, and black levels are just fine. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix might not be the last word in active surround placement, but it’s generally well done. There are certainly plenty of split surround effects that find themselves in the fronts and rears and some effective panning across the soundstage also adds some width to the surround experience. Alex Heffes’ driving music gets the full treatment in the fronts and rears. Dialogue is generally well recorded (though Stallone’s mumbling delivery may require some reverses or closed captions) and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: director Mikael Hafstrom and screenwriter Miles Chapman share the microphone. There is too much description of what’s on the screen, but at least it keeps the men talking and does help bring up production anecdotes right to the end credits.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Executing the Plan: The Making of Escape Plan (22:13, HD): producers Mark Canton, Robbie Brenner, and Kevin King-Templeton, director Mikael Hafstrom, writer Miles Chapman, and stars Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and (briefly) Jim Caviezel discuss the production of the film from first draft of the scrfipt through casting and shooting.
Maximum Security: The Real Life Tomb (21:57, HD): criminal justice advocates, architects, wardens, and others comment on the different styles of prisons used in America, offer a brief history of incarceration in our country, and mention the changes Hollywood inflicts on the institutions to make for a more dramatic film.
Clash of the Titans (15:34, HD): Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and director Mikael Hafstrom talk about the long journey to get to their first co-starring film together.
Deleted Scenes (8:13, HD): eleven scenes may be watched individually or in montage.
Promo Trailers (HD): Divergent, The Expendables 2, The Last Stand, Dredd 3D.
DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Even with some significant miscasting, Escape Plan is certainly an entertaining popcorn thriller. With excellent picture and sound, this Blu-ray should be an easy rental for those who like a fine mix of cerebral and physical action.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: