The 400-Word Review: Escape Plan

By Sean Collier

October 21, 2013

Also, my arthritis is acting up!

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As Sylvester Stallone (who never really went away, just grew increasingly irrelevant) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who very much did go away, and shouldn’t have come back) attempt to reenter the world of Hollywood, it seems that they’re determined to return to the by-the-numbers action fare that defined their lesser successes. Sometimes, a stock actioner can be delightful; unfortunately, Sly and Arnold haven’t been particularly discerning as of late.

Both aging stars tried to launch solo vehicles earlier this year, but neither Bullet to the Head (Stallone) nor The Last Stand (Schwarzenegger) made much of an impact. So what to do? Why, team up, of course. It already worked for every 50-plus skullcrusher in the Expendables franchise, right?

Escape Plan miscasts Stallone as Ray Breslin, a former prosecuting attorney who becomes an expert on prison security after a vanquished con breaks out of jail and extracts standard measures of revenge. Breslin’s specific role: going undercover as a prisoner, and remaining an inmate until he can escape, thus illustrating a facility’s weaknesses. So yes: Escape Plan posits that Stallone is a careful, calculating genius rather than a dude that hits things really hard.


While toasting another victory, Breslin and his band of helpers (Amy Ryan, 50 Cent and Vincent D’Onofrio) receive an off-the-books proposal from the CIA: test the security of a top-secret, state-of-the-art black site built for the permanent confinement of terrorists and the like. Breslin wants the challenge, and agrees despite his coworker’s objections. Inevitably and not amusingly, things go quite wrong on arrival.

That’s already more plot description than this dud deserves, so I won’t get into Arnold’s introduction as Breslin’s reluctant prison associate, Emil Rottmayer; they help each other out and stuff. There’s not much to it, despite a script by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller that believes itself to be clever despite all evidence to the contrary.

There’s nothing here that isn’t from the Action 101 course curriculum, including an effeminate baddie (Jim Caviezel) and a minority helper/patsy (Faran Tahir). With Breslin’s escape and victory inevitable, the proceedings grow tiresome in a hurry.

The true insult is that Stallone and Schwarzenegger, who are only useful in displays of brute strength, do very little heavy lifting. They mostly talk — a skill that both performers have never really mastered. To call Escape Plan a mess is probably too kind; labeling it brain dead is a bit more accurate.

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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