We Want Action: Escape Plan (2013)

escape plan poster[As you’ll be able to tell shortly, this was originally written back in March.] It’s kind of funny that I happened to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in Escape Plan the same weekend as the former’s Sabotage also debuted. I didn’t plan on being relatively timely, I just wanted to watch a movie with two of my favorite action stars. Sure, it would have been cool to see these guys team up on the big screen in the 80s, but I don’t know if that would have made for a better movie.

In Mikael Håfström’s Escape Plan, Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a guy who goes to jail in order to test the prison’s ability to keep criminals inside. He works with a team that includes Abigail (Amy Ryan), Hush (50 Cent) and his business partner Lester (Vincent D’Onofrio). Breslin gets hired to test a top secret prison that holds the worst of the worst. He agrees and wakes up inside the Tomb, a state of the art prison run by Hobbes (Jim Caviezel). It becomes clear to Breslin pretty quickly that he got tricked into going to this particular lock-up. He soon teams up with Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to break out of the craziest prison around. 

I’m sure a lot of people aren’t interested in watching a couple of dudes in their late 60s play action roles and that’s fine. I’d be a little uncomfortable with it myself if it wasn’t these two guys. Much like Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, this movie doesn’t pretend that these are two guys in their prime like some of the latter day Chuck Norris films did. Sure, there are a fair amount of fist fights and more running around than even I do on a normal basis, but the action itself didn’t seem forced upon characters or actors unable to handle it.

With echoes of  my beloved Prison Break and even that Gerard Butler movie Law Abiding Citizen, I had as much fun watching Escape Plan as I hoped I would. But, what really boosted this film in my mind was Caviezel’s portrayal of Hobbes. He really just goes for the craziness of it all and fully embraces it. He’s a ruthless man who wants to keep his ship sailing as smoothly as possible, so seeing that and him break down is a treat. You don’t get to see much of that these days because it can so easily veer into the kind over-the-top territory Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies of yore lived in, but Caviezel walks that line pretty damn well in my book. For what it’s worth, I also really enjoyed 50 Cent in what might be his most understated role to date (or at least in my experience).

At the end of the day, I don’t think Escape Plan is the kind of movie that will change anyone’s opinion of Stallone or Schwarzenegger like Cop Land did for the former back in the late 90s, but it is a fun, well put together action film that looks great and has a super-game cast that seemed to have fun with the material.

Halloween Scene: Don’t Go In The Woods (2010)

I knew absolutely nothing about Don’t Go In The Woods aside from the brief description given on Netflix: “A group of indie rockers seek solitude deep in the woods. But they soon realize they aren’t alone when a sledgehammer-brandishing intruder arrives.” As I’m a fan of rock-based horror movies like Rock N Roll Nightmare and Black Roses I figured I’d give it a shot, not even knowing until I started the movie on Netflix that Vincent D’Onofrio directed it. I had absolutely no idea that it was a musical, which explains a few of my bewildered tweets last night.

And when I say musical, I don’t mean a bunch of dudes sitting around with their instruments trying to write songs, but full-on, singing-at-the-camera moments as well. The odd thing about the movie, though, is that it reveals itself so slowly that it’s hard to actually figure out what’s going on. For quite a while, it is just the dudes in the band playing, so you think it’s that kind of movie. Then the singing-at-the-camera stuff starts, but we’re well into the movie at this point.

The horror elements also take quite a while to get going. Aside from a bloody woman seen in the beginning of the film, there isn’t another kill or scary moment for the next half hour or so. I will give the movie credit for being so off balance that I was never sure when something bad was going to happen. We get those long, wide shots of people walking around in the woods and since I’ve seen a million horror movies, I’m trained to think something bad’s going to happen. They’re creepy and unnerving even if nothing happens.

Now that I think about it, off balance is a really appropriate descriptor for this movie. Some of the performances are as wooden as the trees surrounding the band and the small army of female fans that show up to hang out. On the other hand, some are really solid. You’ve also got the beauty of the setting set off by the gruesome acts taking place. And, on the same note, some really great music sung by various band members. I would actually buy this movie’s soundtrack if it’s available anywhere (I haven’t seen it, but it might exist somewhere).

There’s also the matter of the ending, which I won’t get into too specifically. I didn’t see the twist coming at first, but it did hit me before the actual reveal, which made me feel smart and stupid at the same time in a head-slapping kind of way. I’m still not exactly sure what happened or how it all worked, but I liked how it was presented, especially the classic slasher homages in there. I also dug the look of the killer which was a masked guy in a black hat and long coat, simple but off putting.

While there weren’t any real scares or jolts for me in the watching of the film, I did find myself a little unnerved and that hasn’t happened in a while. There was just something about this movie, it was slippery and fluid, I couldn’t grab hold of it, but in a good way. I can’t say I liked the movie every moment I watched it, but having seen it, I’m glad I did and am still thinking it over.