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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Escape Plan

February 1st, 2014

Escape Plan - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Escape Plan features two of the biggest action stars of the 1980s, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It earned mixed reviews and failed to find an audience here. (It did perform well enough internationally that it could break even early on the home market.) Is the film better than its box office performance? Or did it fail to find an audience for a reason?

The Movie

We first see Ray Breslin in his prison cell. He's warned by the guy in the next cell over that a couple of other inmates are planning on jumping him the next day. The warning saves his life, but he's still stuck in solitary for a stint with nothing but his Bible to keep him company. He's very observant of the guards and their routines. We soon see why, as he breaks out with the help of two outside accomplices, Abigail Ross and Hush. However, instead of taking him to where the law can't catch him, they drop him by a phone booth where he is immediately spotted by the cops. He does manage to make one call before the cops arrest him. That's where we learn the truth. Ray isn't a criminal. He works for an independent security firm, with the accomplices we met before and his partner, Lester Clark, that was contracted to test the the security of maximum security prisons. This prison failed.

After Ray gets back to to their corporate HQ, they are contracted by Jessica Miller, a CIA lawyer. The CIA is working with an independent contractor on private prisons to house the worst of the terrorists. They need to test it to make sure it is truly escape-proof and that's where Ray comes in. The plan is for Ray to go undercover as a terrorist to test the system out. However, there are some differences. Because of the sensitive nature of the prison, no one else can know where the prison is located. Most of the team are not happy with this job, for different reasons. (For instance, Abigail isn't happy, because this prison is everything due process should prevent, not to mention the added risk due to the secrecy.) Lester Clark loves it, because they are offering double the normal fee, $5 million, and it is his job to take care of the business end of the company. Despite the obvious concerns, Ray still takes the job.

Ray, Abigail, and Hush head to New Orleans, where Ray will be captured. Just before he is sent out, he's given his undercover name, Anthony Portos, and the evacuation code he needs in case things go wrong. Then he's tagged with a transponder, just in case. However, when he's captured, the first thing the people do is remove the transponder. The second thing they do is drug him. He wakes up on a plane long enough to see a guard, whom we later learn is Drake, kill a man and throw him off the plane. When he wakes up next, he finds himself in a glass cell surrounded by many other identical cells. The guards all wear the same black masks. When he's brought into intake to see the Warden, he meets Warden Hobbes, not a Warden Marsh as he was expecting. Knowing the situation has gone horribly wrong, he gives his evacuation code. Warden Hobbes simply doesn't care. The job is not going as planned and Ray has no way out.

When Ray has to go into general population, he is naturally hesitant. After all, things have clearly gone wrong and he doesn't have any of the precautions he thought he had. He's told by the warden to leave his cell, and the warden uses his cover name, Porthos. We see another prisoner perk up when he hears the name. He makes his way over to Ray, saving Ray from a beating in the process. He introduces himself as Emil Rottmayer. He worked for Victor Mannheim, a security expert, who made a lot of rich and powerful enemies. Now Emil is in prison while they try to find his boss. Emil seems to think Porthos can help him, and maybe he can help Porthos. Ray doesn't trust him, but given how much his mission has gone south, he doesn't trust anyone. However, Ray needs to find someway out of this prison, and Emil seems to be his only friend.

At this point, we are only about a third of the way into the movie, but since much of the plot is about Ray learning about this prison and why his mission went wrong, we quickly run into spoiler territory, so we will stop the plot summary there.

Escape Plan is like most jailbreak movies, it's a heist movie in reverse. I really like heist movies. I like seeing the planning, the execution, the inevitable change in plans, etc. This movie does all of those elements rather well, although the complexity of the plot is rather silly and if you start to question the details, it falls apart. There is also a extended section where Hobbes tries to break Ray, but it never felt authentic. It dragged on too long only to be reversed by one pep-talk by Emil. After it was over, I was left wondering what the point was. I liked the political angle in the film, but thought it was underused. Likewise, there was a little bit of humor, but not enough to elevate the film to its potential. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are good as the two leads, but most of the supporting roles were underdeveloped, but make an understatement. (I did like how Faran Tahir got to play a Muslim that wasn't a token bad guy. They avoided a cliché there.

Overall it's a good example of the genre, one that is worth watching, but not one that will be remembered as a classic.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Mikael Hafstrom, and one of the writers, Miles Chapman. Up next there are three featurettes, all of which are rather meaty. The first is a 23-minute making of featurette. The second featurette is more interesting. Maximum Security: The Real-life Tomb is a 22-minute featurette about the really-life maximum security prisons, including parts where they are compared to what we see in the movie. It's fun to see real-life vs. Hollywood. The last featurette is Clash of the Titans, a 16-minute look Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger working together. Finally there are nine minutes of deleted scenes.

The technical presentation is solid. The video is good with a high level of detail, for the most part. There were a few CG blood splatters that were a little dodgy, so these scenes tend to be a little softer. The colors are great, even though they toned down for aesthetic reasons. The blacks are very deep without swallowing details. The audio is even better with a finely crafted 7.1 surround sound track. There's plenty of activity in all speakers, especially during the action scenes, but the effects never drown out the dialogue.

The Blu-ray costs $20, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is an acceptable premium to pay, but not a real deal.

The Verdict

If you like prison break movies, then Escape Plan is worth checking out. If you like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Escape Plan is worth checking out. If you like all three, then Escape Plan is worth picking up. There are enough extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack that either format is good value for the money.

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Filed under: Video Review, Escape Plan, James Caviezel, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Amy Ryan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Faran Tahir, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Caitriona Balfe, Mikael Hafstrom, Miles Chapman