Ray Breslin is a guy prison wardens hate to see. He may look like your average hard-edged con when he walks through the gate, but he's actually a fearsome fellow with MacGyver's inventiveness and the physical discipline to find the soft spots in just about any prison security system. And that's exactly what the Feds pay him to do: Go inside and find those chinks in a prison's armor.
Ray has broken out of more penitentiaries than most people have ever even heard of. He wrote the book on it. Literally.
It all comes down to layout, routine and help. Ray studies the layout of the prison, maps the routines of the guards and prison personnel, and arranges a key bit of help from someone inside the facility or out. Then he snaps his fingers and he's back home cashing his check.
So why not give it a go, this cellblock Houdini figures, when a CIA gal tosses a private, escape-proof prison gauntlet down at his feet.
After being drugged and taken to an unknown location, though, Ray wakes up to find himself in a place he never thought could exist. The cells walls are transparent and impervious, the prison layout is flawless, the guards are robotic, the murderous prisoners have been beaten into quiet submission and the warden is a sadistic overlord.
A sadistic overlord who's read every word of Ray Breslin's book.
Even though he carries out hard-pounding, authority-confounding, seemingly criminal actions, Ray Breslin is one of the good guys. He does everything he does to better the enforcement and containment capabilities of prison officials. And it's obvious that most of his prison-breaking business comrades are equally devoted to his cause … and his safety. When he falls off the grid during the private prison "case," they work sleeplessly to find him again.
Ray tells of how the loss of his beloved family made him passionate about his job.
A group of Islamic prisoners kneel and pray aloud to Allah. One of their number seeks out a Quran from the prison's warden, and we see the man praying several times, asking for Allah's forgiveness and blessing another inmate. He later says "God is great" to the warden, who responds, "Yeah, whatever," before shooting him.
Ray's fellow inmate and temporary partner Emile Rottmayer prays the Lord's Prayer in German during a frantic moment. He also tells a story (again in German) of a man who repeatedly calls out, "I seek God." Ray rips a page out of a Bible and burns it, using the ash to draw on a wall.
Ray's colleague Abigail wears a cleavage-baring top. She invites Ray over to her house for a meal, slyly hinting that he can complain about her cooking … "in the morning." Rottmayer tells a crude sexual joke while miming oral sex.
As you might expect, given its pumped-up stars, this prison-life actioner packs in quite a lot of hard-fisted beat-'em-up. Several riots are fomented by Ray and Rottmayer, the two bruisers exchanging mighty blows. Ray is attacked by several large men, one of them carrying a shiv. He slams their faces into posts and walls, and ends up stabbing one of them in the shoulder with his own weapon. Ray has his leg sliced open, and we see a close-up of a doctor stitching it painfully back together. Ray also has a transponder injected into his arm—just before another man slices it back out with a box cutter.
Guards smash inmates (including Ray) in the head, face, shoulders, back and legs with heavy billy clubs. Bones are broken and noses gush blood. One large man is left with blood-streaming gashes on his forehead and cheeks before he falls face first to the floor. Another is tortured and almost drowned by a water hose in an extreme version of waterboarding. Guards also get out their automatic weapons during a riot, killing quite a few inmates. Ray, Rottmayer and another man grab weapons of their own and shoot back.
Exploding barrels of fuel erupt, setting a ship deck on fire and crisping at least one man. A car explodes and erupts in flames.
Crude or Profane Language
Well over 50 f-words and a half-dozen s-words are mixed in with a handful each of "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "d‑‑n." A couple of guys flip the middle finger. A crude reference is made to male genitalia.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Prison guards smoke cigarettes on several occasions. A doctor drinks a large glass of alcohol. Ray has a needle full of a knock-out drug jammed into his neck. Tear gas is used on a crowd of rioting prisoners.
Other Negative Elements
Rottmayer draws a picture of a bare backside, indicating where prison officials can find the information they're seeking.
Sly Stallone and Ahnold Schwarzenegger do hard time in a high-tech slammer. Yeah, it could be easily argued that they're both way past their slug-fest prime, but it's easy to accept that these seasoned movie icons still have all the grit and beef needed to take on yet another crazy challenge. We've seen these guys save the world with ease in one slam-bam actioner after another, after all. So when it comes to a few wrinkles, a pair of sagging jawlines and a couple dozen ruthless prison guards, ha, that's nothin'. And indeed, the likeable pair fill their roles with plenty of squint, flex, mumble and charm.
Escape Plan's basic story can be counted as something of a plus, too. The prison-break buddy tale isn't unique, but it keeps a few twists tucked away in its prison uniform pockets to make the ending worthwhile. And the MacGyver-esque puzzle solving, real-science escapes, and character surprises all add panache.
And this time around, the guy breaking out should actually be breaking out!
The punch in the face, though, comes in the form of all those elements that earn this pic its hard-R rating. Scores of onscreen men are repeatedly "beaten," "tortured," "bloodied" and "killed," all for our "enjoyment" and "entertainment." And the prospect of sitting quietly in a theater seat just so you can be mercilessly pummeled by bare-knuckle obscenities would set even Rocky Balboa back on his heels.
Hmmm. Seems like this one's pretty expendable after all.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Sylvester Stallone as Ray Breslin; Arnold Schwarzenegger as Emile Rottmayer; Jim Caviezel as Hobbes; Amy Ryan as Abigail; Sam Neill as Dr. Kyrie; Vincent D'Onofrio as Lester Clark
Mikael Håfström (The Rite, 1408, Derailed)
October 18, 2013
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose