Escape Plan 3, 2019.
Directed by John Herzfeld.
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Jin Zhang, Harry Shum Jr., Jaime King, and Devon Sawa.
Security expert Ray Breslin and his cohorts have to break into a prison to rescue a billionaire’s daughter from the clutches of a former colleague’s son out for revenge.
Okay, you knew this was coming, don’t pretend you didn’t. You watched 2013s Escape Plan because it brought together iconic action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a co-headliner that was a fun blast of exaggerated violence that harked back to their glory days (despite being tinged with sadness that it wasn’t made 25 years ago while both actors were still huge box office draws). Escape Plan 2 (or Escape Plan 2: Hades, as it was known in certain territories) arrived to little fanfare last year and things weren’t good – Schwarzenegger did not return and was ‘replaced’ by an underused Dave Bautista (Spectre/Guardians of the Galaxy), Stallone came back and had top billing but probably spent more time in the accounts department collecting his cheque than he did in front of the camera, the plot was daft, the action dull (apart from Bautista stepping into Arnie’s shoes by looking mean whilst mowing down goons with a huge gun) and the whole thing felt like a cheap cash-in and a total waste of time that was reflected in its financial returns. But it did set up a third movie that somebody actually greenlit.
Which brings us to Escape Plan 3 a.k.a. Escape Plan: The Extractors, a.k.a. Escape Plan: Nobody Asked For This (that last one may have been made up), which sees Sylvester Stallone feign some interest for more than the 15 minutes he was on-screen in the previous movie, of which this movie barely references. In this direct sequel to the original, Ray Breslin (Stallone) is hired to infiltrate a disused prison where the daughter of a Hong Kong billionaire is being held by Lester Clark Jr. (Devon Sawa – Final Destination), the son of Breslin’s former colleague who double-crossed him in the original film and who is slightly annoyed that his father was left to die in a shipping container (remember that?). Just to add that personal touch, Clark Jr. has also kidnapped Ray’s colleague and now love interest Abigail Ross (Jaime King – My Bloody Valentine 3D) and so Ray contacts his friend Trent DeRosa (Bautista) and together they break into the heavily guarded prison with the bodyguard and also the former boyfriend of the Chinese hostage to clear the whole thing up.
Do you see what they did there? Ray Breslin is breaking IN to a prison – not out, like he has done in the previous two movies. That’s how they get you, you see – they twist the formula and do what they’ve done before, only slightly differently so you don’t twig straight away. Yes, Escape Plan 3 is more of the same low production value action shenanigans that Escape Plan 2 displayed, only this time there are a few minor improvements, i.e. there is something of a story, the action is a bit more exciting and there are moments where you can actually get engaged with what is happening on the screen, which is really a bare minimum when it comes to action thrillers but we are following up a turkey of a movie so anything positive you can take from it is a bonus.
Again, the focal point is Sylvester Stallone, and he does get a lot more screen time here than in the previous film, but he does look tired during most of the dialogue scenes, his mind clearly thinking about filming Rambo: Last Blood but realising he has to make it through this film first. However, Sly is a professional and he does get a chance to show a range of emotions here as the plot unfolds and Ray Breslin has to overcome a personal tragedy to achieve his goal. Stallone also gets to flex his muscles and he proves that he can still do angry like nobody else when it comes to dishing out a pummelling in a fit of rage.
Dave Bautista also gets to throw a few punches and fire a few shots, despite only being in the movie for a total of less than 10 minutes. He still looks hard as nails stalking around prison corridors with a shotgun that seems to fire nuclear grenades as the people it kills seem to explode in a shower of CGI sparks; yes, it is dumb and looks a bit like a PS3 game but Bautista pulls it off with a straight face and gives the best Terminator performance seen outside of a Terminator movie (now there is a casting idea…).
Not so great, though, is Devon Sawa, who seems to be channelling Mel Gibson from The Expendables 3 but without the wit or the aura of somebody who has seen a bit of action, making Lester Clark Jr. something of a whiny little bitch with daddy issues. Not sure whether it is in the writing, the direction or the performance but the portrayal of Clark Jr. is very inconsistent, as if they were trying to make him an unpredictable psychopath but the edge of danger just isn’t there.
There are a lot of other characters in this film but none of them are memorable or important enough to be anything other than plot devices, although Jin Zhang (Ip Man 3) as Shen, the billionaire’s daughter’s former boyfriend (got that?), makes a bit of an impression with some impressive martial arts skills but, again, his character just feels a little incongruous given the straight-up bullishness of Stallone and Bautista, who are the only real reason to watch this film. Nevertheless, the action scenes are well shot and you can clearly make out who each person is, although there are some quick edits to help disguise some CGI touch ups but they aren’t too distracting.
Overall, Escape Plan 3 isn’t a great film but it clearly has ambitions to be, despite some odd character choices. One could easily accuse Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista of turning up to fire some guns, punch some goons and collect their pay cheques but, if we’re being honest, they are doing what we want them to do and doing it with a bit of style that makes it worth sitting through for 97 minutes of brain-switched-off activity if you are a fan. However, take away the two leads and their action chops and there is not a lot of meat left on this particular bone, and whilst the film has a slightly bigger feel than Escape Plan 2, which was primarily set in one location with the set being moved around every so often to look like it was bigger than it actually was, it still looks horrible with nearly every interior shot bathed in yellow light. The exterior drone shots of Ohio look great and give a sense of location but as we are trying break into the prison in this one, once we get to that point the set designs seem to go out of the window. At least the prison was the same one that was used in Tango and Cash so that must have been a nice nostalgia trip for Sly; unfortunately for the rest of us, Escape Plan 3, whilst watchable if you are a die-hard action movie nut, doesn’t offer up the same nostalgia trip that the original Escape Plan did – perhaps Arnie had the best escape plan after all.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★