Escape plan (15, 115 min)

Escape Plan
Escape Plan
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Action plot has plenty of brains to go with the obvious brawn

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are evidently growing accustomed to each other’s company on the big screen.

Having spent much of their careers as box office rivals, the muscle-bound American and Austrian action heroes finally traded verbal blows in Stallone’s action-packed 2010 adventure, The Expendables. The stars reunited for the two Expendables sequels and now the sixty-something icons team up for Mikael Hafstrom’s preposterous, yet thrilling, prison break.

Escape Plan is an undeniable guilty pleasure, energized by breathless direction and a script co-written by Miles Chapman and Arnell Jesko that keeps us on our toes.

The film is brazenly divorced from reality and the two leads demonstrate an amazing ability to emerge unscathed from a hail of bullets or outpace teams of prison guards half their age.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s grizzled charm carries the film through its loopier moments though, including an opportunity for the two men to exchange bone-crunching punches.

“You hit like a vegetarian,” smirks Schwarzenegger after Stallone lands a feeble first blow. Escape Plan opens at Bendwater Federal Prison, where structural engineer and security expert Ray Breslin (Stallone) has been incarcerated to test the facility from the inside.

He identifies weaknesses and orchestrates a jailbreak from solitary confinement with the assistance of his team on the outside: right-hand woman Abigail (Amy Ryan) and technical genius Hush (50 Cent).

No sooner has Ray returned to the land of the free than his partner, Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio), organises a meeting with CIA agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe).

She offers five million dollars if Ray will abandon his usual protocols and go deep undercover in a top secret prison designed to hold the men that society wants locked up for life.

Despite the misgivings of Abigail and Hush, Ray agrees and he adopts the guise of a Spanish terrorist called Portos.

He quickly realises that his mission is bogus and he is imprisoned for real under the watchful glare of sadistic warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his murderous henchman, Drake (Vinnie Jones).

“You belong to me now!” snarls Hobbes.

With no obvious means of escape from a state-of-the-art facility full of Perspex cells, Ray befriends fellow inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and on-site medic Dr Kyrie (Sam Neill), and a daring plan takes shape.

Book-ended by two hare-brained breakouts, which rely as much on meticulous planning as good fortune,

Escape Plan makes light work of the 115-minute running time. Stallone and Schwarzenegger are an appealing double-act, growling expository dialogue that handily details every twist and turn.

Slick editing keeps the pacing brisk and the scriptwriters engineer a neat sting in the tail that, while not entirely unexpected, proves the film has some brains as well as plenty of brawn.

Action/Thriller. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Sam Neill, 50 Cent, Amy Ryan, Caitriona Balfe, Faran Tahir. Director: Mikael Hafstrom.