You know it’s not the kind of jailbreak movie Shawshank Redemption is when you have granddaddies of the action film genre Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lineup.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) works for a security company, where a routine assignment involves going undercover as an inmate and breaking out of it in order to highlight the security flaws in a prison’s system. When he receives a multi-million dollar assignment from a CIA agent to test out the world’s most top-secret and maximum security prison at an undisclosed location, he takes it up despite the fact that the assignment’s stipulations break many of Breslin’s personal protocols.
The plan goes awry soon enough, and our hero realizes that somebody wants him there for good. His skills are put to a new level of test, as his usual methods of breakout—layout, routine and help—are challenged by the prison’s impressively claustrophobic web of glass cells, masked prison guards and complete isolation from the outside world. Enter fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger, sporting a very flattering goatee) who becomes his ally in the escape plan.
Escape Plan introduces a novel premise to the prison break genre, but does not have the smarts to pull it off in a memorable way. The obvious reason it works, and admirably well for two hours, is the star power of its two leads. It is typecasting magic; the pre-conceived stakes are just effortlessly higher when your jailbirds in question are Rambo and the Terminator. Every inch of headway made in escaping the apparently airtight facility propels the plot forward with the subtlety—and gratification—of a Rocky Balboa fist punch.
And that’s why, despite the numerous flaws—from the absence of a narrative arc to arbitrary alliances and implausible cop-outs—you’ll find yourself forgetting to breathe every once in a while.