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Escape Plan (Blu-ray Review)

Let’s face it.  Escape Plan is the tag team hardcore action moviegoers of my generation have been dying to see happen on the big screen ever since the big guns of the 80’s.  With the exception of Arnold’s brief scenes in The Expendables series, Escape Plan truly marks the first time Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have starred together in the same film.  I don’t know how you feel about it, but that’s one massive production in my opinion with both of those hulking names thrown together in the same ring.  So nevertheless, since I missed the press screening last year, I have been drooling with anticipation and anxiously awaiting for this “action” flick to come out on the Blu-ray format, like a dog waiting for its master to come home from a hard day of work, just to get a first hand look at their onscreen chemistry together, outside of The Expendables franchise.  Now the real question is whether or not I was disappointed in it?  I’ll get to that more in a few minutes, but for now let’s talk about everything Escape Plan.  You down with that?

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Film 

Escape Plan, which was formerly known as The Tomb, is billed as not only an action movie, but a thriller too.  I’ll shed more light on that “but” statement in a moment.  In addition to the show’s two main stars, it also features Jim Caviezel (TV’s “Person of Interest”), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (Fire with Fire), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand), Vincent D’Onofrio (TV’s “Law and Order: Criminal Intent”) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone).  The flick is directed by Swedish filmmaker Mikael Hafstrom off a script by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller.

Escape Plan’s concept seems simple and straightforward on the surface.  It revolves around Ray Breslin (Stallone), a structural engineer, who’s life mission is to secretly point out vulnerabilities in various prisons by escaping out of them.  He’s so good at it that he even wrote the book on what not to do when designing a prison to make it escape proof.  However, in Breslin’s world, is there ever such a thing of escape proof?  In my opinion, I believe his character thinks not.  Then one day a CIA agent enters his life and the rest is history.  You see, she doubles his normal fee and enlists his help in incarcerating him in the world’s most secret and secure prison to see if he can escape.  Little does he know, there’s a lot more than meets the eye to this deal.  He may have just gotten the rotten end of it.  This is also when he meets the man that completes the dream team here in this picture, Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger)?  Will the two men destroy each other or will they work together toward achieving a common goal, escape?  That’s what we are here to find out.  But also, don’t you want to know who set Breslin up for this trap and more importantly, how the hell is he going to get out?  I mean, this prison is like nothing he has ever seen before in life.  Remember what I said.  Breslin wrote the book on how not to build jails.  What if someone actually read it?  Gasp!

The sad part is, despite people’s dreams of seeing Sly and Arnold together, Escape Plan only received mediocre, middle-of-the-road reviews.  It’s those mediocre reviews that actually kept me out of the theater after I missed the initial press screening of the feature.  You see, Escape Plan is not the big action thrill ride everyone initially thinks it is.  There’s action in it, but it’s not truly a popcorn action movie.  Unlike The Expendables films, these two action movie icons don’t make fun of themselves throughout.  Sure, there’s a lot of cheesy dialog and some humor to go around, but for the most part, the action is grounded and the thriller elements come into play and begs to question how are they going to escape the prison, who can trust who, who’s playing who and more importantly why are they in this prison.  Rest assured, all your questions will be answered, but it’s the Tom Clancy-like way in which they are that will throw people off who come into this one thinking they are going to see the next Con Air with the biggest action star vehicles possible.  I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it just doesn’t work that way.  However, wouldn’t you rather know this now than come into the film thinking this is the case and being utterly disappointed?  I think so!

Now with that all being said, addressed and pointed out above, there’s no denying the chemistry of the pair onscreen.  Their charisma, charm and legacy are central and paramount in the spotlight here.  Also, in all honesty, it’s quite refreshing to see the two play these parts in a film where quite frankly, they never played roles like this before.  You’re so used to seeing these two in dumbed down action flicks, that it’s quite a treat to watch them in something that will keep you guessing until the end as to how they will or will not escape the maximum impenetrable prison they are both incarcerated in.  And how about those guard outfits?  Are they not the best too?  Jabbawockeez anybody?!

My biggest beefs are probably with the actors outside the prison.  Their performances are weak at best in my opinion, but let’s face it.  We’re here to watch Sylvester Stallone’s character break out of an escape proof prison.  So who cares what goes on in the outside world.  What’s going on in the outside world is actually the least interesting to me.  It’s the world of the prison that we truly care about and you definitely don’t get short changed there with some key performances by Sylvester and Arnold, not to mention one of my fan favorites all the way back from the days of High Crimes opposite Ashley Judd, Jim Caviezel.  He always plays a good villain in my opinion.

Quite honestly, I think this film does it right.  I mean, let’s take into consideration both Expendables films for a moment.  While I can enjoy them, I’m also embarrassed for the actors in them at the same time too.  Let’s face it, Sly and Arnold are no spring chickens and I think that’s what makes Escape Plan so perfect for these senior stars.  The film’s setting and premise limits their physicality and in doing so lends credibility to the story.  What do I mean by that?  Well I mean instead of raging steroid action sequences after another, we have a story that’s grounded and the aging actors must use their wits maybe even more than their biceps if they want to escape the evil clutches here.  It kind of stretches the limits so to speak from what we are used to seeing from these actors (well mostly from Arnold) and I for one like it.  It’s not a perfect film and I hope you can see why you’re going to have a flaw or a plot hole here or there, but for the most part it’s an effective one and albeit a fun one too.  It’s a puzzle I want to take apart and put together multiple times if that helps make any sense to my argument above.

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Video 

Have you ever seen the old Van Damme movie Death Warrant?  If so, that’s exactly what Escape Plan looks and feels like, at least to me it does.  The color is contained and muted throughout.  Think prison blues, emotionally and colorfully, and you’ve painted the landscape pretty accurately here.  Now that’s not to say this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode looks bad.  It’s actually quite the contrary.  Despite the color constraints, things look rather im”pec”cable here.  The picture is framed in a 2.40:1 widescreen aspect ratio presentation.  And I’m here to tell you, this is some heavy definition at play here as detail is prevalent throughout from the razors adorning the guard fences to the bulging veins on Stallone’s scarred left forearm.  Things really do look great here!  If you were looking for some good 1080p beard stubble, pores, dirt and grime on jail cell walls, individual cracked bricks making up a prison building, etc., you’ve come to the right place.  Everything is rendered and captured brilliantly here.  And let’s not forget about all the other little things that add up to make this score what it is.  Black levels are all deep and inky throughout.  Flesh tones are all natural and in check.  And most importantly, there are no visual signs of blemishes, scratches, dirt, dust, specks or noise at all during its 115-minute runtime.  Escape Plan’s video is definitely something you don’t want to “escape.”

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Audio 

Just like in the video department section above, Lionsgate does not let you down at all in the audio category.  Escape Plan’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track will rock da house, literally.  Every bone crushing blow and thud is audibly on display for all to hear, absorb and relish in.  You’ll feel it all as the surround sound engulfs you and drops you right in the middle of all the action, mayhem and mystery.  From the robust and rousing score to the helicopters chopping, the water splashing and dripping and the bullets zinging past you, it’s definitely a blast (no LFE pun intended) to be had with this feature on Blu-ray.  And luckily for us all, the dialog is always clear and intelligible throughout.  All you have to do is party with the big guys and most importantly, enjoy.  You think you can handle it?  Are you up to the challenge?  I know you are!  Also, selectable from the disc’s main menu, there is a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is that is billed oddly as Optimized For Late-Night Listening, English Descriptive Audio and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround one in addition to the English and Spanish subtitles.

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Extras 

While the special features listed on the back of the box may not look like much, I’m pleased to chime and let you know there’s more than meets the eye here.  The featurettes, although few, are generously lengthy.  So that’s a plus!  There’s also a Director’s commentary as well as my favorite bonus…a code for redemption of not only an UltraViolet license, but an iTunes Digital Copy in HD too!  Hooray!  Take that Fox (they have only been giving Standard Definition iTunes Digital Copies as of late)!  So without further ado, let’s break down everything in the Extras department.

  • Audio Commentary – As I made mention to already above, the audio commentary features Director Mikael Hafstrom as well as co-writer Miles Chapman.  Mikael is sitting in London for this while Miles is in LA we quickly learn and that the opening scene is indeed not in Colorado, but in New Orleans.  Quite honestly, it’s not the most engaging of audio commentaries I have ever heard, but it does the trick.  Early on there’s a lot of talk about the script including how it was conceived and what Mikael thought of it when he first read it.  For me it’s just quite interesting to hear from the writer, Miles, as he was not on the set for when this was shot so he is learning a lot about his creation from the man who was responsible for bringing it to life.  I really like how Mikael had a real prison contact who read the script to bring the details of the prison into reality or at least make it plausible.  You want to know about Sly’s input in 50 Cent’s role?  Well, you’re in the right place!  It’s actually great to hear how much input Sly had in the film.  These commentary tracks get me quite chatty because there’s so much to talk about and recap so I’m going to shut up and let you hear it for yourself.  Oh alright, one more!  What kind of man would choose to spend his life in prison is the crux of the movie for Miles and the first thing he came up with when writing this one.  God!  I love hearing writers talk about their craft and the inspiration they have behind the story they created.  Okay.  Zipping it!
  • Executing The Plan: The Making of Escape Plan (HD, 22:13) – This one is pretty interesting to me as it serves as both a behind-the-scenes looking at the making of as well as a backdrop for a plethora of interviews.  It takes you all the way back to the beginning with Summit purchasing the screenplay and why Stallone picked it, because it was an original story that read much like a Tom Clancy one.  However, Sly was originally casted as the warden in the movie.  Go figure!  Sly also talks about working with Arnold for a whole film.  But what I found even more interesting was the NASA plant in New Orleans where this thing was filmed.  It measures 263 ft high and 170,000 sq ft in area.  Wow!
  • Maximum Security: the Real-Life Tomb (HD, 21:57) – Here we get to have an intimate look at real-life maximum security prisons and their history.  Professors, architects and former wardens all chime in on the subject as well.  I found the conversation about Alcatraz to be the most intriguing.
  • Clash of the Titans (HD, 15:34) – Obviously you should all know what this one is all about, right?  Well, without giving anything away, let’s just say it’s about two of the biggest action movie stars of all-time and their box-office competition over the years, requirement for a fight scene together and their futile attempts to do something like this in a film together four decades.  Think you got it now?
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 8:13) – There are a total of 11 deleted scenes here, which can also be played continuously via the Play All selection.  Highlights include a cafe scene where it explains the Sly is a vegetarian remark in the film as well as the search for the van that abducted Sly’s character.
  • DVD (SD) – The second disc in this Combo Pack is a DVD disc, which houses a standard definition presentation of the film.
  • Digital HD (HD) – As I said before there is a redemption code in the Blu-ray case that is redeemable for HD versions of both an UltraViolet license as well as an iTunes HD Digital Copy.  Hooray!

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Summary

So ask yourself the real question here.  Why the hell not?  If you are a fan of these two action movie icons, why the hell would you not give this Blu-ray disc a spin?  I can’t figure out any reason why you shouldn’t.  With exceptional video and audio as well as a couple hours of extras to boot, this is definitely one the fans of these two action star vehicles should pick up on Day 1.  You hear me?  Day 1!  Finally, Sly and Arnold bring something more than just muscles and testosterone to a feature.  They bring their brains in addition to brawn too!  Escape Plan is a puzzle I want to put together again in the near future.  Hopefully you’ll fee the same way too!

Escape Plan comes out on Blu-ray February 4th.  Help support our site and keep it going strong by clicking here to pre-order it now.  Thank you!

Escape Plan Blu-ray




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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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