Escape Plan 2 Review
A week after the release of a sequel for a hugely popular Pixar film that was never needed, here we have another follow-up that no one ever considered asking for, let alone contemplate, given how forgettable the first film was. And if you can’t get enough of old man Stallone unbelievably breaking in and out of impenetrable fortresses then you’re in luck because Escape Plan 3: Devil’s Station is already in the can and ready for release. Who knew the Escape Plan Cinematic Universe had so much to offer?
For the time being let’s concentrate on the nuggets of gold Escape Plan 2 has to offer, a film so bad that even Arnie knew to give it a swerve at this low point in his career. Where the first film had the novelty factor of pairing Stallone and Schwarzenegger as a duo for the first time - even if their stars no longer shine quite as brightly as they once did - it was at least competently directed by Mikael Håfström. We have no such luck this time with B-movie hack Steven C. Miller stepping into the breach to lower the bar even further.
Stallone returns as Ray Benson, the security expert who makes it his business to help prisons tighten up their security systems to stop inmates escaping. This time his team are the ones in immediate danger, when Shu (Xiaoming Huang) and his tech-whizz cousin Yusheng (Chen Tang) are kidnapped and thrown into a high-security – and ridiculously over-stylised– prison facility. Any guesses for what it might be called?
Ray and his crew - (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) and newbies Luke (Jesse Metcalfe) and Abigail (Jaime King) come together to help him get away from the (Dr.) evil clutches of The Zookeeper (Titus Welliver). Ray’s old friend, Trent (Dave Bautista), adds an extra bit of muscle and sleepwalks through his role spiced up by a series of unexplained wardrobe changes.
Shu is the star of the show for the sequel, with Stallone providing awkward voiceovers in his role as mentor. Huang’s delivery of the dialogue is nothing short of terrible and the least director Miller could’ve done is given him a stripped down Keanu-style script to save him the embarrassment. Star Stallone is now 72-years-old and so bizarrely jacked up for his age that he resembles an oddly chiselled wooden mannequin where even the seams of his clothes struggle to understand what they should be doing.
One action scene rapidly follows on from the next, with little to no build-up and Miller is unable to force in the smallest semblance of tension or energy. The fights lack coherence and even though Huang handles the set-pieces far more easily than the script, he’s hardly a captivating presence. A ridiculous amount of ADR also seems to have been added in post production, adding a dead weight to the entire atmosphere of the film.
The list of problems go on and on, from amateurish CG, to awful set design and the kind of editing that makes everyone look bad. Escape Plan 2 is part Chinese funded, which explains its location and why Huang is leading the cast, and it will remain the case for the third part in the trilogy. The surprising thing is the small scale of release in the UK, even though it stands a half decent chance of doing good business. That said, the old adage remains true: if it looks like VOD trash, chances are, it is VOD trash.