Director: Stephen C Miller
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Xiaoming Huang, Dave Bautista
This review was written while in the grip of both a fever and a migraine and, like the film, probably shouldn’t have been attempted at all. Reader discretion is advised.
Escape Plan was an enjoyable enough pile of crap, five years ago, which saw Sylvester Stallone as the world’s least-believable CEO teaming up with Arnold Schwarzenegger, during his brief resurgence, to break out of a maximum security prison ON A BOAT. In its favour was some pretty stinky dialogue and the homoerotic rapport between the leads. Against, was, well, Vinnie Jones. But it just about passed muster. Just.
It didn’t fare too well at the box office, except in Asia, where this kind of thing ticks all sorts of boxes. Now there’s this sequel. Arnie’s gone but Stallone bumbles on, albeit on the sidelines, which is just as well as he’s only moderately more articulate than Hodor from Game Of Thrones these days.
Xiaoming Haung (Ip Man 2) takes the lead as Shu. Out to protect his cousin (Chen Tang) on a stag-do in Bangkok (establishing shot: neon Sex Shop sign), he fails and the two wind-up in Hades; a cross between a maximum security prison and a disco in Tron. In this inexplicably advanced and poorly defined space – which features force fields and, err, electrified food – inmates are referred to as animals and forced to battle one another like it’s the Fight City episode of Superjail, only shitter. Winners get to draw with pencils in a virtual reality lounge. Titus Welliver (who can do better than this) is Hades’ “zookeeper”, out to collect satellite technology patents from Shu’s cousin. Obviously.
Boasting a techno soundtrack that might’ve sounded cool in 1999, all sorts of dreary nonsense follows inside the prison – which is also the cube from Cube and home to a bunch of War Boys kicked off of the Mad Max: Fury Road set – while Stallone’s Breslin and crew try to track them down from the outside. Prospects seem slim as said crew’s golden boy is still 50 Cent. For some reason Dave Bautista is also in this. He plays a bartender friend of Breslin’s, but Bautista really should be able to turn joints like this down in his post-Guardians fame. Still, we get to see him in a flat cap and, later on, a roll-neck sweater.
The budget isn’t there for this kind of derivative sci-fi hijinx (check out those poorly conceived explosions in the film’s Chechnya opening sequence) so it relies on darkness to hide a multitude of sins. And while the random stupidity of the concept sounds like it has the potential to provide a few laughable highlights, the oh-so-serious tone isn’t conducive to it at all. Arguably there is one triumphant moment, in which the War Boys enter the winner’s lounge and look around with the serene wonder of a bunch of shaven (shorn?) Teletubbies. It’s the briefest flicker of self-awareness in an otherwise hopeless chasm of despair, like the last brief twinkle of life in the eyes of a family pet before its put to sleep.
Then the film flatlines.
A mid-film twist is entirely predictable given the set-up, and instead of eliciting surprise is more likely to remind viewers of that moment during a difficult test when you just give the fuck up and throw the pen down. You just disappointed yourself. And, as Breslin narrates Shu’s pain and despair, you can’t help but feel similarly defeated. Self-pity consumes.
A weak cry from within emerges… “What have we done to deserve this?”
Not enough, evidently. A third movie is on the way. FUUUUUUCK THIIIIIIISSSSS.