This guest post is by Richard Lawrence, who co-hosts the fantastic All of Whine and Space podcasts, probably my biggest influence on my getting into the format. Its a pleasure to have him write for Goats In The Machine and I heartily suggest you check out his work.

Escape Plan poster

There are two extremely important things to know about me before you read the following love letter to the 2013 classic Escape Plan starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first is that I am a huge fan of Sylvester Stallone and his work on the wonderful Rocky films. The second is I went into this film on the strength of my love for both Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

So on to why I’ve had such a strong reaction to Escape Plan. First off and most importantly the plot of the film is extremely strong. The basic plot sees Ray Breslin (Sly) a professional prison breaker, being hired by the Government to break out of an unofficial, off-the-grid, super badass prison (referred to as ‘The Tomb’) which is believed to be inescapable and Willard Hobbs (Jim Caviezel) trying to find the location of a man called ‘Mannheim’ . That of course is a loose plot breakdown with the wonderful twists and turns of the film still to come. The plot is so wonderful you aren’t left relying on the main draw of the film, the big 80’s action stars, and the film could work without those two, but where would the fun be in that?

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On the subject of Arnie and Sly, I think they work really well together and on some levels this is my version of the 1995 classic ‘Heat’. The balance between who they are in terms of their legacy and the film trying to be an entrée within itself is great, with the film knowing when to rely on their legacies and when to try and create its own. A lesser film might have sunk with these two mega powers at the helm, but Director Mikael Hafstrom and writers Miles Chapman and Jason Keller (screenplay) get the balance right leading this to be more then a popcorn flick.

Let me quickly leave the lovefest for a second and highlight a sticking point in the film though its minor in my mind, and I’m only highlighting it because I did notice it. The first quarter of the film has the difficult issue of having to build the plot and get our players into their positions. While the film is filled with a good stock of talent with Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan and Curtis Jackson supporting the main draws, they have to work wonders with a script not as punchy as it thinks. There is also the dilemma hanging over the film of when will Sly meet Arnie?

A quick praise for Curtis Jackson who has handled his work which I’ve seen this year extremely well (the other film I’ve enjoyed him in is Frozen Ground, which is worth well seeking out)/ In Escape Plan he plays an ex-con computer genius and possibly steals the scene set outside the prison. In the newly christened film genre nostalgia action flick writers and directors are going to have to solve the problem of getting the stars together again without losing the audience.

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The look of the film is amazing, the badass super prisoner looks cool and cold, with a budget of 70 millions you couldn’t ask for a better looking film, with the one use of CGI being fine. There were a few fight scenes which look as brutal as when the stars were in there prime and I have to confess that when The Terminator squared off against Rocky my inner child was as happy as the smile on my face. Also during this scene Arnie pulls off the line of the year, proclaiming that  hits like a vegetarian. The final scene, which is also the centrepiece action scene, is so refreshing for a modern day nostalgia action flick  because it’s pretty well balanced between delivering enjoyable action and in-jokes for the audience. They successfully spilt this scene between Arnie and co kicking ass on the roof and Sly having a personal battle with Drake (Vinnie Jones) inside. The moments when Arnie grabs the huge machine gun and Stallone catches a pistol, while hanging from a rope ladder, had my inner child very happy; however the fact Drake’s final moments are offscreen really highlights the lack of faith Hollywood has in the 18 certificate film market.

Another charming thing about the film is that the action is good and brutal (well by today’s standards), but that’s not the whole point of the film. There is a strong subplot exploring the main reason for Schwarzenegger’s character (Emil Rottmayer) is locked up.

This plot also introduces the best villain of the year so far or at least the most entertaining. Willard Hobbs (played by Jim Caviezel) has been tasked with being the warden of ‘The Tomb’. The subplot is all about Hobbs attempting to discover the location of a man called ‘Mannhein’ who is blackmailing the banking world with some dumbass plot devise to cripple the banking community. The man who knows the location is Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger).The films MacGuffin ‘Mannhein’ brilliantly works as a cover for the escaping duo and for Hobbs and the hidden villainous intentions of Vincent D’Onofrio to keep the film ticking over. Jim Caviezel’s performance as Hobbs steals the show with his villain being entertaining and believable. With his top henchman in Vinnie Jones they make a great team and give added depth to a top cast.

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Why do I love Escape Plan? Because the film does use the nostalgia perfectly both in dialog and onscreen moments but it deliveries a plot which works and makes sense. The main goal to break out of the prison is worked out logically by Stallone – something nice to see was Stallone playing a smart guy for once, but when things do go wrong they are corrected in way that isn’t too over the top. The support storyline works and isn’t too complicated to follow and the main stars are supported by great cast. An appearance from Sam Neill adds value to a great cast, and special mention to Faran Tahir who aids the film in a wonderful supporting role which could have easily been cannon fodder. The film is full of double crossing but is kept as simple as possible to help the film move along and out of intention of being a pure action nostalgia piece. I’m really pleased that the pair (Schwarzenegger and Stallone) was given a film which works and they bring good performances with their legacies only enhancing the film. Whether this film turns out to be a guilty pleasure or you end up thinking these two legends should give up the game, for me this could be the film of the year or at least the surprise of the year.

WARNING: – One more thing the film has a huge twist which I’ve left out so you can still enjoy it in the film.

Did you enjoy Escape Plan as much as the esteemed Richard Lawrence? Let us know in the comments below!
You can follow Richard on Twitter: @Billowl
Richard co-runs the excellent blog and podcast All of Whine and Space
For more articles like this follow: @GoatsInMachine

Bill’s piece got you hungry for some more Sly and Arnie action? Buy anything through this link and we’ll get a commission while you don’t pay any extra.

Yo Adrian, you should buy it!

Yo Adrian, you should buy it!

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