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Escape Plan

tn_escapeplanWell, shit. I hope ESCAPE PLAN isn’t the last gasp for straight ahead R-rated theatrically released movies from the ’80s action icons. I guess Schwarzenegger has another one in the works called SABOTAGE. And there’s always the off chance that an EXPENDABLES sequel could be made where they’re trying harder and it mostly works on its own merits, not just nostalgic references and goodwill. We action fans all kinda hoped the EXPENDABLESes would remind the rest of the world that they used to love those types of movies and reignite their popularity, so we could all go see them on the big screen with the loud speakers and with a big crowd excited to experience it together and maybe afterwards there would be some high-fiving, possibly some push ups.

The possibility seemed real enough that we got Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in THE LAST STAND and Sylvester Stallone starring in BULLET TO THE HEAD and now both of them starring in ESCAPE PLAN. All of these movies have been flops at the American box office, even though all of them have been pretty enjoyable, and better than any non-sequels either of these guys have done since the ’90s.

But hey, at least a couple of us were there to appreciate it. ESCAPE PLAN is a solid, enjoyable Stallone vehicle where Schwarzenegger gets to be the joking sidekick. Rob Schneider was busy.

Stallone is introduced as an inmate in a maximum security prison. We watch him calculate as he studies the guards and their habits, draws diagrams on his wall, prepares tools made of toilet paper and milk cartons… you know, makes an escape plan. And then an escape do. You see, he is actually Ray Breslin, world’s foremost expert on prison escape. Also published author. Of course in movies there’s gotta be a cut and dry emotional backstory that explains specifically why somebody does what they do, and we’ll get that later. But the important thing is he’s part of a private security firm that works with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to test out their shit.

mp_escapeplanAfter proving that the supposedly impenetrable prison is actually quite penetrable and returning to the outside world, Breslin accepts a fishy-from-the-outset gig in an off-the-books, black site type of place called The Tomb, ZERO DARK THIRTY meets HALF PAST DEAD. The cons are kept in David Blaine style glass boxes, the guards wear creepy black plastic masks like they’re in THX 1138, and as soon as he gets there he realizes he’s been screwed, he has no backup, he’s really trapped in there for life if he can’t figure out an escape.

Schwarzenegger plays Rottmajir, a fellow inmate who protects Breslin from the welcoming committee (not that he necessarily needs help) and tells him to come to him for any favors he needs. The favor he needs is to punch Rottmajir in the face until they drag him to solitary so he can begin studying what kind of screws they use on the floor paneling and stuff like that. It’s the type of movie where he knows every obscure fact in the world and can use them to Sherlock or McGyver his way out of situations. Plus he seems to have photographic memory of guard habits, patterns and body language, and luckily their routines are consistent enough to count on happening the same any day that an escape needs to take place.

You know, you got all the prison movie cliches. You got the different gangs they gotta deal with, and then try to turn them to their side. That kinda shit. Silly, but it works. And I guess it’s at least novel that because most of the prisoners in this place are presumably terrorist suspects they’re dealing with Arabs instead of the usual black or Hispanic or skinhead prison gangs. The main guy is played by Faran Tahir, bad guy in IRON MAN, president in ELYSIUM.

The supermax security is probly not as super as they say it is. They make the security guards wear masks so the inmates can’t tell who is who, but they never seem to strip search ’em and can be fooled by a camera being covered. But I guess there are holes in any system. We got an unprecedented level of domestic spying going on right now but I just read about the White House having to have a 6 month investigation to figure out which one of their staffers was shit-talking them on Twitter.

The masks are one of these touches that shows maybe this is, like, one year into the future or something, kinda like HALF PAST DEAD’s electric chair that conveniently rises up out of  the floor. But the weirdest futuristic-ish touch is the uniforms the inmates have to wear. They’re pin-striped with one thick black stripe up one side of the chest, but then the strip doesn’t go through the pocket, which has some kind of a Q code type deal printed on it. The stripe is on the right on some uniforms and the left on others, and on the back there is giant lettering with another bar code. I guess it’s weird anti-counterfeiting measures like they got on the new hundred dollar bills.

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still_escapeplan

Except wait a minute – how come that guy in the background just gets to wear his undershirt? And also if they’re concerned about security then why are they giving them two pockets? What do they expect them to keep in there? No, now that I’ve considered it I’m sure these are not uniforms designed with security in mind. I bet somebody on the prison board hooked up a pretentious fashion designer crony with a fat contract. Guys in other joints are probly wearing ridiculous hats, leather jogging pants, who knows. And these prisons are off the books so they can get away with the cruel and unusual punishment.

Speaking of which, they let  these cons socialize and stuff. There is the occasional beating or interrogation, but they sure don’t Abu Ghraib them. Is that optimistic or is it naive when the brutal prison in a dystopic near-future is not as bad as the real ones we have?

There are more names in the cast than I knew going in. You got Vincent D’Onofrio as Breslin’s boss at the security firm (have you guys noticed that he played Orson Welles in ED WOOD and now he’s physically transforming into him?). You got Vinnie Jones as the warden’s right hand man when he takes his mask off. Those aren’t exactly casting coups. But the warden being Jim Caviezel is pretty good, and what about Oscar nominee Amy Ryan as Breslin’s partner on the outside and potential love interest? That’s an unorthodox choice. Then Breslin has to go to the prison doctor and what the hell, it’s Sam Neill! I thought that would be funny if all he did was stitch him up, a bit part. But you guys know how it works.

50 Cent plays a computer genius reformed criminal who’s on the team because he owes Ray one. I didn’t mind him. Kind of a funny idea to cast him as that.

D’Onofrio has a goofy piece of actor business where in multiple scenes he’s putting on hand sanitizer as he talks to people. It could be that D’Onofrio said “my character is afraid of germs,” but it could also be some writer or director trying to put in some dumb symbolism about him trying to “keep his hands clean” of the dirty business of secretly imprisoning people outside of our legal system of justice. I actually suspect option B, because Caviezel has a similar gimmick where he’s always brushing lint off of his suit. Clean freak bad guys (SPOILER) is a motif.

I generally think Caviezel is an underappreciated actor, doing interesting under-the-radar movies like OUTLANDER and HIGHWAYMEN and he’s even good in the LONG WEEKEND remake from what I remember. But to be frankly honest I didn’t dig him that much as this uptight scumbag, despite a whiff of mega in his acting style. Maybe if he’d gone more ridiculous it would’ve worked better for me. The one great thing he does is when he finds a loose screw from a panel that Breslin had climbed through. He picks it up and tastes it. That really could’ve been a “what would Nic Cage do here?” acting choice.

But of course Stallone and Schwarzenegger are the main event, and both deliver on what we love about them. Breslin is one of the standard issue Stallone action heroes, not a more developed one like in BULLET TO THE HEAD or an emotional one like John Rambo or Rocky Balboa. But he’s cool and internal, gets to be quiet and broody, which he’s much better at than trying to be a charmer.

Schwarzenegger, sporting a grey goatee, is cooler than he’s been in a movie since at least TERMINATOR 3. He gets to joke around with Stallone, not just do bad puns. It’s that thing where they insult each other but don’t really mean it but try to leave it in question whether or not they do. He got two moments of genuine applause from the sadly sparse audience I saw it with.

As an extra bonus he also gets to show a side we haven’t really seen of him before. To create a distraction he pretends to flip out, yelling crazy gibberish – and in German! As nice as it is to see him back in the old game it’s also cool to see him trying out new skills.

We’ve had alot of discussion about The Clint Eastwood Approach to Action Star Aging. Clint was real smart about making his age a theme in his movies instead of dying his hair and wearing cool shirts and trying to pretend he was younger than basic mathematics would seem to indicate. Stallone followed suit in ROCKY BALBOA and Schwarzenegger did a jokey version of it in THE LAST STAND. But I think I gotta also give credit to the in-between approach seen here. Age is never seen as a weakness – no “losing my edge” subplot or impending heart failure – but it’s obvious that these two guys are veterans and to be taken seriously because of all they’ve been through and the wisdom they’ve gained from it. I like seeing Arnold’s transformation from center-of-attention human specimen Mr. Universe to the old guy standing back in the yard but then when you notice him you think oh shit I wouldn’t want to get on that guy’s bad side.

As far as the recent Stallone movies go I personally prefer BULLET TO THE HEAD. He had a more interesting performance there, there were more clever lines and Jason Momoa made for a more entertaining and more multi-faceted villain than Caviezel gets to play. But ESCAPE PLAN is also alot of fun, and it’s more of a slickly tuned machine of a story, so I can see why some would like it better. More importantly it’s a good example of how we can team these icons up EXPENDABLES style without a bunch of winking and nudging and shit. They make a great team, just like we figured they would. It’s so rare that there’s a buddy movie where both of them are this badass.

The director is Mikael Håfström, the Swede who did 1408: AN EVIL FUCKIN ROOM. Screenplay is credited to Miles Chapman (ROAD HOUSE 2: LAST CALL) and Jason Keller (MACHINE GUN PREACHER, MIRROR MIRROR).

NOTE: I forgot to really pay attention to action filmatistm enough to give it a fair ACR. I don’t remember being bothered by any severe shakiness or anything during the punching scenes, but there’s not a huge amount of fights or anything. It’s a movie that’s more about the story than body movements.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 24th, 2013 at 2:59 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

48 Responses to “Escape Plan”

  1. I hope Schwarzenegger’s career revival lasts long enough for that long-awaited King Conan movie, which has the potential to be his UNFORGIVEN. I really wish they’d gone with John Milius’ KING CONAN: CROWN OF IRON script, which isn’t perfect but could be massaged into something great and has the best name for a Conan movie ever. The current working title for King Conan movie is LEGEND OF CONAN… boooring.

  2. I don’t know. It was okay, I guess. It just didn’t really build to anything, and it wasn’t very well thought out. I didn’t really buy the prison as this outrageously hardcore place. It seemed like you could get away with all kinds of shit all the time. Plus, you had all these characters who didn’t have anything to do (Sly’s team), or they were there because they had exactly one thing the plot needed them to do and then they were forgotten. The twist with Arnold’s character was pretty obvious, which isn’t that big a problem. The fact that I forgot exactly what their escape plan was before the movie was even over was a much bigger deal, what with the movie being called ESCAPE PLAN and all. At the end of KING KONG, I wasn’t like, “Which one was Kong again?”

    But it wasn’t all bad, just undercooked. Arnold was great. Possibly one of his best pure acting performances ever, especially in his German monologue. I really love him in rascally character actor mode. I still think he has it in him to be a leading man for years to come (Witness ESCAPE PLAN’s uncontested action highlight, when he pulls the M-60 off the chopper and goes to town John Matrix style) but I’d love to see him become a musclebound Earnest Borgnine, popping up in random places as funny, wisecracking supporting characters.

    Sly, by comparison, was boring as hell, with a character that made no sense. He was a prosecutor? How’d he learn all that engineering, chemistry, oceanography, etc.? This is a great example of the “A dead family member solves everything” trope that I recently mocked so mercilessly in the GRAVITY review. Also, if he had devoted his life to making sure no prisoner ever escaped from jail, why was he so cavalier about helping a drug dealer escape? Why wasn’t he colder to his fellow inmates before gradually accepting that they were people too? It’s another movie where the plot just doesn’t support the themes of the script. It would have made a lot more sense if Sly was a career criminal who turned his habit of getting imprisoned into a career. I lost a lot of respect for his character when I found out that he was never really an inmate. Fuckin’ poseur.

    With this film, has Sly surpassed Nic Cage as the most heavily incarcerated actor? This, LOCK UP, TANGO & CASH, FIRST BLOOD 2, DEMOLITION MAN… Any others?

  3. In Kevin James is ZOOKEEPER he was the voice of Joe the Lion. I have not seen this film because of standards, but I assume he was in some sort of animal enclosure.

    In RAMBO (2008) he was trapped in a prison of his own suppressed rage and violent urges. Eventually he busts out.

  4. I said this elsewhere but I’ve found Arnold this year more relatable than he’s ever been with aging actually to his advantage. I mean that German gibberish scene, would he have done that back in the 80s? Would it have even worked?

    BTW, I read somewhere that Arnold was supposed to do FORTRESS back in the day before he backed out. So here’s his prison movie not named THE RUNNING MAN.

    “The twist with Arnold’s character was pretty obvious, which isn’t that big a problem. ”

    Mr. M – I…still don’t understand it honestly. It almost felt like a Orci/Kurtzman twist-for-the-sake-of-it-damn-it-if-makes-no-sense-at-all. Whatever.

    Funny enough this was like BULLET TO THE HEAD in that both had good natural finishes, but then followed-up underwhelming epilogues if you will. (LAST STAND at least knew to end pretty much when Sheriff Arnold marches the bad guy up main street tied behind his car, back to jail.)

    Majestyk, would you agree with me that if the filmmakers were more ambitious they could’ve done an interesting anti-Guantanamo parallel? I mean the Stallone character you can make him be his 80s persona, no mercy for evil and making sure those evil people stay locked up. But then throw him into such a situation himself, and yeah he grows an appreciation….or a re-appreciation….for civil liberties and Habeus Corpus and all that.

    “why was he so cavalier about helping a drug dealer escape”

    I think the dude was just desperate enough to escape that he conveniently left one of his supposed core values back in his cell. No biggie.

  5. Quite dumb, however, isn’t that what we’ve all come to expect from a movie starring Arnie and Sly? Good review.

  6. Am I the only one who is watching PERSON OF INTEREST aka “the most badass action show on TV right now” aka “the greatest superhero show on TV, that doesn’t seem to be a superhero show on first or second sight” aka “the one show where Jim Caviezel plays one badass action hero”?

    It’s weird how this show seems to be a huge hit, but nobody talks about it, despite it being (I apologize for using this cliche) every week a new action thriller and having a seriously clever, slowly unfolding story about “ghosts in the machine” and “who watches the watchmen” stuff.

  7. I completely agree. A fun B movie vehicle for those guys. I actually thought Ray Breslin is a character who could have more prison break adventures. Maybe team up with The Rock next time.

    I thought Arnold was a little embarrassing tho. Some of his one liners were so bad I couldn’t believe he thought that could be another “I’ll be back” or “it’s not a tumor.” I mean, “Have a wonderful day?” Really?

  8. caruso_stalker217

    October 25th, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Now now, Fred.

    “Have a lovely day…ASSHOLE.”

  9. CJ:

    I really like PERSON OF INTEREST, for the very reasons you stated. I’ve also noticed that it’s hardly ever mentioned online, at least not in the places I frequent. It seems to be virtually unknown, to the point where Ubisoft’s upcoming WATCHDOGS game can filch the whole concept without anybody saying a thing.
    They’re even gonna produce a movie based on the game.

  10. Yeah, I really wonder what’s up with POI’s “underground” status. It’s kinda like SPARTACUS all over again, only this time I got no idea why everybody seems to be ashamed of talking about it! Come on, it’s a clever and well made show, created and produced by two of the most popular names of current geek culture and is apparently a ratings hit!

  11. I’m interested. I always liked the more subdued Stallones like LOCK UP and this sounds up that alley.

  12. The Original... Paul

    October 25th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    It was “Have a lovely day… MOTHERFUCKER.”

    Did you guys get a censored version? That’s too bad.

    Broddie – Stallone’s character annoyed me, actually. There’s a wonderful five-minute segment at the beginning when he doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. In those five minutes he seems pretty damn awesome. Then unfortunately he opens his mouth and starts to annoy the hell out of everyone, including me. (well, not Amy Ryan apparently.)

    That said, having not seen “Bullet in the Head”, I appreciate Stallone giving this one some welly. I mean, after “The Expendables”, where he gave not only his worst performance, but one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from an actor who I know can actually act, it’s good to see him in a role where he actually gets to emote. I agree with Majestyk though: I don’t think the character did him justice.

    I can’t believe I forgot to mention that German monologue on the forums. Best moment of the movie by FAR. Also got the best reaction from the crowd in the cinema I was in. It was interesting… in “The Last Stand”, which I saw at the premiere showing in my local multiplex, the crowd was almost all young moviegoers. In this one the average age was much older – lots of couples, guys in their thirties like me, etc.

    I disagree with Vern on one thing: I really liked Caviezel in this one. I didn’t think he needed to go “over the top”. For me he oozed both intelligence and menace, which was exactly what was needed in an antagonist who had to take on both Arnie and Sly at once. What I particularly liked about him was that, literally seconds until the end, he seemed completely in control of things. The absolute last thing that this film needed was a klutzy bad guy.

    And I don’t want to spoil too much, but the final twist was really really really fucken’ dumb. So much so that it kind of annoyed me. A real “Oh, come ON” moment for me.

    And “The Last Stand” had a way better moment of karmic retribution at its climax. I get what they were going for at the end of “Escape Plan” but it didn’t really gel for me. Maybe because the bad guy in that scenario was so underwhelming compared to Caviezel. Honestly I would’ve preferred if they’d have gone the less cliche’d route with him and had him be a straight-up good guy, the same way that “The Call” subverted all of my expectations by making Morris Chestnut’s character a genuinely nice supportive guy (instead of the asshole philanderer that 95% of other movies of that genre would’ve had him be).

    I wrote more in the “Escape Plan” trailer thread, but I’ll repeat my conclusion: this is absolutely an average movie. It has some pretty good bits, some not very good bits, and it all averages out to a whole that I would recommend as light entertainment for fans of Arnie or prison break movies, but can’t give too much of a recommendation for anybody else.

  13. The Original... Paul

    October 25th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Just had a thought… Stallone should totally be a silent film star.

    My favorite film of his by far is “First Blood”… he hardly utters a word throughout, until the very end (which makes that monologue at the end all the more devestatingly effective. That and his words to Brian Dennehy halfway through. Dennehy’s reaction makes it, of course – his gradual realisation at just how close he’s come to death. Seriously, I fucking love that film. Anyway…)

    My point is, “Demolition Man” and “Tango and Cash” aside, I think of all my favorite Stallone moments, and they’ve all been either completely silent or punctuated by silence. All my LEAST favorite Stallone moments except one (and no amount of dialogue could’ve made the shower scene from “The Specialist” any worse) have occurred when he’s an asshole whose behavior we’re supposed to excuse because of a dead family member or something. Seriously, look at just how often this has happened in Stallone’s career, and how closely it correlates to crappy, crappy films. And ok, I know other people like “Cliffhanger” more than I do, but “The Specialist”? “D-Tox”? Yeah…

  14. You have a point, but people forget that Rocky is a total blabbermouth. He babbles constantly, and Stallone is great at it. With Sly, you can always tell when he’s got a handle on the inner life of the character. If he doesn’t, all his line readings sound like just that: line readings.

  15. Breslin clearly should have had a deep secret. He sends himself to prison over and over because he is free there: his conscience cleaned for his awful crime. Then, when he “escapes” he’s back in the prison of his own mind.

    I was really hoping this movie would cast Stallone as a guy who helped build up the prison industrial complex, then comes to realize its’ inherent evil, so he puts himself in prison as a sort of penance. What if he were a prosecutor who aggressively sent men to jail only to later find out that he had been duped and ruined dozens of lives.

    But that wouldn’t be Stallone, I guess. So instead we have a movie about how fucking awesome privatized prisons are.

    Also, Arnold should have been an Arab Muslim character. And they should have stated out in a fucked up Guantanamo bay prison that was actually hidden inside a high tech lab on us soil.

    Anyway, I kinda liked the movie. Glad I saw it.

  16. I enjoyed it. There were probably like… 15-20 people in my theater (opening night), but they all had a good time. It felt to me like the first proper Arnold role since his comeback started. And it was enjoyable seeing him and Sly playing smart guys. Right after watching it I felt like it was better than BULLET TO THE HEAD or THE LAST STAND (both of which I liked), but I may have just been riding high off seeing Arnie back in his element again. These factors probably made me go way easier on the movie than if it had starred a couple of nothings; the fact that you guys have all these great ideas about how it could’ve been better probably speaks to how average-at-best it was.

    One thing regarding Arnold and aging that I noticed, is in the scene where Caviezel sticks a hose down his throat he really does look like a terrified old man. It’s one of the most startling images of Schwarzenegger’s career. In the past when he’s played vulnerable, it’s always looked like just that – playing. Also I appreciated that Caviezel somehow overplayed underplaying the bad guy. I’ve always liked him, especially for his performance in THE THIN RED LINE.

  17. Going into the picture I wasn’t sure why Arnold would take the second banana role. Of course now it makes all the sense in the world after seeing. As others have mentioned this was his best role in ages I feel. How about the part where he tries to convince the Arab drug dealer to keep fighting and he’ll carry him up the ladder if need be?

    Do you see the emotion in his face? Dare I say it was on the same scale as Mickey R. in Expendables part one? Obviously it wasn’t a full couple minute monolog as Mickey’s but still. Very touching scene and it got me unexpectedly. He does the same w/ Sly earlier in the film but here you feel how he can just taste their freedom and he’s going to get it no matter what.

    But throughout the picture Arnold was firing in all cylinders. Whoever brought up the water torture was right on with him showing his vulnerability. I can’t speak more highly of his performance here, while Sly’s was par for the course. I liked it better than all their recent efforts.

  18. Another bad line was “They cancelled the prison dance.” I wrote it down. But still, adding “A-hole” doesn’t make it a good line. Didn’t Stallone have a much more badass finishing line?

  19. It flopped in America, but this now has done $93 million global. (Or more than LAST STAND and BULLET TO THE HEAD have done combined.)

    In fact in China it actually outgrossed its American performance.

  20. So I saw GRUDGE MATCH. Mind you I had zero expectations and I caught this at the local second-run dollar theater. But I actually kinda enjoyed it? I would recommend it as a rainy day rental.

    Mind you not too different from RIDE ALONG really. Both are slapstick, both with very predictable plots borrowed from older better movies. But I liked this one of the Kevin Hart films more because it had more enjoyable elements for me. Sly is always good as the lovable-loser-with-great-spirit-but-his-failing-body-can’t-keep-up characterization. Alan Arkin does his old cranky bastard gimmick again, but fuck it I love Alan Arkin and his gimmick these days.

    I found some touches relatable, even in a cartoon like this. Like that Sly and DeNiro, two old boxers who both publicly piss on MMA. Sure I don’t agree with there there, but that’s a generation gap with old timers when confronted with something like UFC. I found that plausible.

  21. I’ve been hearing that it’s much better than expected. I had a few laughs at the trailer (specifically the stuff involving the making-of-video-game scene where the characters first fight), but figured it’d be something like THE INTERNSHIP where they put all the best moments and jokes in the trailer.

  22. Something rubs me the wrong way about “haha, they’re OLD people!!” type comedies, especially when it involves two actors cannibalising their own artistic legacy for laffs. But I’ve heard it’s an alright movie.

  23. You know what stupid, predictable, manipulative, not-very-well-made-or-all-that-funny movie is actually pretty decent? HERE COMES THE BOOM, that one where Kevin James is a teacher who does MMA to save the music program. No, seriously. It’s another assembly-liner from Adam Sandler’s stock company, with everything that entails, but somehow its utter shamelessness works in its favor. James just barely gets away with both the fights and the cliched inspirational teacher stuff, and the mix of comic but surprisingly vicious violence and unabashed corniness put its in the same family (but not the same league) as GOON.

    But don’t see it for any of that. See it for Bas Rutten absolutely KILLING IT as James’ trainer. He’s the funniest thing in the movie by a considerable margin. He makes being the wacky non-actor with a funny accent in a Happy Madison production look good.

  24. I really liked the Steve Martin/Jack Black/Owen Wilson bird movie THE BIG YEAR. It’s definitely a studio-made comedy, but it’s not reaching for any lowest-common-denominator (like anything Sandler slaps his name on) and doesn’t come from an overly simple hypothetical plot (like GRUDGE MATCH). Plus it’s the only Jack Black movie where his schtick is turned down a bit and comes off as more genuine.

  25. I also enjoyed GRUDGE MATCH. Quite a bit actually. That’s not to say I can’t see why critics have given it a pasting; technically it has more than a bit of the “just get it out on schedule, on budget and up to a certain standard of professionalism” feel you might expect from a Happy Maddison veteran like Peter Segal. But it’s breezy, easy watching with some genuine laughs and the script has some nice touches. Most of the central performances are pretty solid, particularly Stallone and Basinger. DeNiro seemingly being a bit lazy again if I’m honest, but between this and THE FAMILY I doubt there have been two films of his I’ve enjoyed so much released so close together in many years (I was less keen on LAST VEGAS, where I actually feel he had a more interesting character and gave a better performance than he had here)

  26. Caught Escape Plan on Redbox – it was perfectly serviceable if a bit dull and overlong; certainly not as bad as people have been saying but not as good as an Arnold/Sly teamup should have been. My only real thoughts are: 1) Caviezel is awesome at mega-acting. A really funny performance highlighted by the one scene where he literally does a Christopher Walken impression, and also the scene where he inexplicably strokes the top of some guy’s bald head in the control room. (It’s a blink and you’ll miss it scene that had me doing a rewind). 2) Amy Ryan looks really good here. 3) The twist wasn’t a groaner for me because I wasn’t particularly invested in the story, but *SPOILER* how was Sly not mad at Arnie at the end??? And why was Vincent D’Onofrio a “bad guy” even though they kinda needed him to act that way to make the plan happen, right? He didn’t seem any worse than Arnie’s daughter at least.

  27. So Mr. Beaks and McWeeny on Twitter were giving good reviews to SABOTAGE, comparing it to “sleazy 1980s Cannon movies,” specifically comparing it to 10 TO MIDNIGHT.

    Mr. Majestyk, is this a good thing?

  28. 80’s sleaze in a new Arnie film would be most welcome. I’ve recently re-watched RED HEAT and RAW DEAL and I liked their disregard for sanitization. I miss it. I hate manners in action movies like TERMINATOR SALVATION. All cleaned up and packaged for mass consumption. Compare TS to the original TERMINATOR and CONAN THE BARBARIAN, not afraid to show flesh and blood. And what a wasted opportunity in TS with Moon Bloodgood(best name for an actress ever – when we tie the knot I’m taking her last name and changing my first name to Sun).

    Anyway, RED HEAT’s bathhouse scene was pretty awesome, with its sweaty atmosphere, naked big bummed girls, and even some side-bush. And its a pg-13 movie(M in Australia).

  29. RRA: Yes, absolutely. 10 TO MIDNIGHT is the one where Bronson blows away a buck-naked sex pervert right in the middle of the street. I’m pretty sure it’s the movie NAKED GUN’s “Swedish Suck Machine” joke came from. It’s that kind of movie. Awesome score, too.

    And RED HEAT is very much R. Jim Belushi’s dialogue alone ensured that.

  30. Shit, now you mention it, I just might make that a double feature right the fuck now.

  31. Mr. M – Never saw 10 TO MIDNIGHT, which is why I asked. Then again you’re more fond of that Chuck era than I am generally.

    Except DEATH WISH 3, we both dig that one.

  32. 10 TO MIDNIGHT is the typical serial killer flick that most action heroes suffer through at least once. This is probably my least favourite of those. I prefer Bronson against eleven million creeps than against a single creepy twat. It´s not all that bad, but outside the DEATH WISH-saga I prefer MURPHYS LAW from this era of Bronson-vehicles. The simple fact; it has a bigger body count and a beautiful final piece of dialogue:
    -“Go to hell!”
    -“Ladies first!”

  33. 10 TO MIDNIGHT does have the girl from the Thriller video buck naked though, so it aint all bad

  34. Shoot, I think THE EVIL THAT MEN DO triumphs over both 10 TO MIDNIGHT and MURPHY’s LAW. It’s the last movie where we get a glimpse of the old 70’s Bronson – combined with the 80’s sleazy style Bronson, of course.

  35. So rather than following up 10 TO MIDNIGHT with RED HEAT last night, I continued on to THE EVIL THAT MEN DO. Because once you go Bronson, you never go back. I like them both, but I’m giving the edge to 10 TO MIDNIGHT. It’s not really an action movie, but it is a sleazy early 80s slasher movie that ends with Bronson executing buck-naked proto-Patrick Bateman right there in the street in front of a hundred cops, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds. You get an on-the-nose exploration of the hypocrisy 80s-style misogyny (Look at the sexy girls! Kill them for being tramps!) with Bronson just waiting around, fuse burning, waiting to explode. I get a kick out of the sheer hatred of kinkiness Bronson had going on in this period. Like how finding that guy’s b battery-operated vagina is clear evidence that he’s a serial killer (Only murderers masturbate, didn’t you know?) or that part in EVIL THAT MEN DO when he kills that guy by luring him back to his hotel room with the promise of a threeway. He even nearly twists that other guy’s dick off in that other scene for being too grabby with the ladies. Just keep it in your pants, fellas. Bronson hates your johnson.

    Then, because I am a crazy person, I watched DEATH WISH 3. It would make a great informal trilogy. In 10 TO MIDNIGHT, Bronson becomes disillusioned with the system and goes rogue. In EVIL THAT MEN DO, he’s gone off the grid and left the killing behind, only to be called out of retirement and rediscover his calling as a righteous executioner of human filth. In DEATH WISH 3, he goes home and reforms the corrupt and inefficient system in his own image. Three act structure. Boom. Somebody write BRONSONETICS.

    Then I fell asleep watching the first 15 minutes of TELEFON so I don’t know where that fits in. More research required, I guess.

  36. If you only understood Norwegian, Mr Majestyk, you could read about every Bronson movie made on my homepage. TELEFON was made in what I like to call the Superstar Era (1974 – 1981). During that period he got offered roles that could easily have gone to Clint or Burt. Solid stuff, ranging from comedies to horror films, and often with big names playing second fiddle (Duvall, Coburn, Steiger, Robards etc). Too bad he said no to films like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Maybe he could have stayed in the era for a bit longer.

  37. I was just thinking about the various stages of Bronson’s career. The Ethnic Henchman Stage (a.k.a The Buchinsky Years). The TV Guest Spot Era. The Memorable Supporting Character In Big Budget Hollywood Production Phase. The Only The Europeans Will Let Me Star In A Movie Years, followed quickly by the Action Directors Who Like Artsy European Movies Will Now Let Me Star In Mid-Budget American Films Phase (DEATH WISH is in there), which led directly to the brief but enjoyable Superstar Era (comparable to Seagal’s Silver Age). Then we have the Cannon Years, which were awesome but also devalued his brand in the eyes of philistines, leading to the final stage, the TV Movie And Movies That Look Like TV Movies Era. I admit that my knowledge of that last one is lacking. Do you know anything about 1986’s ACT OF VENGEANCE, in which Wilford Brimley is the bad guy and Keanu Reeves apparently plays some kind of henchman? It sounds interesting enough to track down (all Bronson movies are, because Bronson is in them) but I want to gauge how much effort to put into it.

  38. It’s a TV movie that played in theaters here in Europe. It’s based on a true story, and Bronson talks more than he did in his other movies combined. It’s worth checking out, but only if you’re really into union history and politics. Or if you want to see the great man act. And who doesn’t? From the TV movie era I recommend DONATO AND DAUGHTER and FAMILY OF COPS III (mostly because it’s his last movie ever).

  39. You’re right Majestyk, RED HEAT got an R rating. Haven’t quite got my head around the differences in ratings between here and the U.S.

    And damn, it just occurred to me, I got to use the term ‘side-bush’, in a comment. Thankyou Walter Hill.

  40. Caught SABOTAGE and I don’t know whether to call this a good movie or just OK. But the nilhistic ending is aces. The sort of ending that Bronson could’ve pulled off back in the day.

    Funny thing happened during the movie. Apparently a Christian couple and kids came into the theater during the middle of the movie, bitching about NOAH. So yes that Russell Crowe movie was offensive, but this R-rated movie with nudity, blood, and body shoved into a fridge and an awesome decapitation is OK?

  41. So is it more Action or Thriller, RRA?

  42. Stu – thriller, its really a murder mystery albeit a sorta convoluted one.

  43. ESCAPE PLAN sequel?

    https://za.celebrity.yahoo.com/news/arnold-schwarzenegger-despite-3rd-straight-box-office-bomb-203800029.html

    Just thrown out randomly in that sentence, yet this is the first instance I’ve read anywhere that a sequel was possible.

    Really what sequel could follow this movie? Arnold and Sly get imprisoned again?

  44. That article also mentions a TV movie called “The Governator.” Does that mean we may see his stupid cartoon series after all? I was kinda hoping it would leak or something.

    This low box office worries me. He’s been making interesting choices and getting punished for it. I hope he tells the box office to eat a dick and try some interesting new things, but I figure instead he’ll just try to make KINDERGARTEN COP RELOADED and JUNIOR JR.

  45. Dikembe Mutombo

    March 31st, 2014 at 7:51 am

    That’s been my fear too. SABOTAGE wasn’t good in my opinion but it’s exactly the kind of chance I like to see him taking (same with THE LAST STAND, which is a bit better but not great). If he has a perception that people only want to see him doing sequels or team-ups then this will probably further validate it.

  46. The Original Paul

    March 31st, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    There is no way I’m not seeing “Sabotage”. An Arnie-starring murder-mystery with action sequences and ridiculous swearing? I don’t even care if it’s bad, this is the kind of movie that I will enjoy regardless of quality unless it drops the ball in every possible respect. And the reviews have been decent enough so far.

    Vern:

    “This low box office worries me. He’s been making interesting choices and getting punished for it.”

    You hit the nail on the head right there. Honestly I don’t think “Escape Plan” is that interesting, except for Arnie’s part in it; but the low box-office for “The Last Stand” genuinely depresses me. (Again, I liked it more than most people here, I know.) And not necessarily just for the reason that you give, although I agree with that as well. So many of Arnie’s movies, “The Last Stand” probably more than any of them, benefit from a “social” viewing. See it in a crowded and noisy cinema with people who will cheer at moments like the flare-gun kill, and it’s great. See it on your own in a darkened room… not so much I would guess.

    But that said, yeah, I would absolutely hate for Arnie to think that crap like “The Expendables” – sadly I believe that that’s his most profitable movie in years, although I’m not sure how the sequel compares to it – is all that’s worth doing.

  47. “If he has a perception that people only want to see him doing sequels or team-ups then this will probably further validate it.”

    Dikembe – The problem is that even the sequels option are narrowing for Arnold. Ok he’s got TERMINATOR 5 but I just have doubts that he’ll stick around. Maybe he will? I don’t know the plotting, even though somebody did report that allegedly Arnold will be playing two Terminators in the movie, one good and one bad. (Wasn’t that James Cameron’s original plan for T2?)

    With his flops so far, I just have doubts that Universal will actually go forward with their new Conan movie with Arnold. We haven’t heard anything new on that front, have we?

    And really, that TWINS sequel? Aint gonna fucking happen. C’mon guys.

    I think very shortly, Arnold is going to end up in DTV land. To be fair he would probably become the biggest DTV star out there (he still clearly carries some clout overseas even if Americans have no use for him anymore, see ESCAPE PLAN’s foreign box-office) and maybe he’ll get his own URBAN JUSTICE or UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION? C’mon you know Florentine or Hyams wouldn’t mind working with him.

  48. The Original... Paul

    April 1st, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    RRA – no “Twins” sequel? Noooooooo!!!

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