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Escape Plan: Sylvester & Arnie Join Forces
Following the roaring success of The Expendables and its unnecessary sequel, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up for their first ever one-on-one, on-screen matchup in Escape Plan. Directed by Swedish filmmaker, Mikael Hafstrom – the man behind 2007 horror-thriller 1408 and 2005's Derailed – the film, unfortunately, falls short of both its promise and potential.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a highly skilful escape artist who specialises in testing the reliability of security systems used in maximum security prisons. As the co-owner of Breslin-Clark, with partner Lester Clark (D'Onofrio), Ray's job entails a few rather unconventional tasks; after gaining access to prisons, he escapes to highlight the security's faults.
His work soon draws attention from the CIA, who are keen to have the expert test a security system in their latest high-tech slammer. The multi-million dollar deal, however, doesn't sit well with Ray's devoted colleagues, Hush (50 Cent) and Abigail (Ryan), who find the whole thing a little suspicious. Despite his partners' hesitations, Ray agrees to the deal and soon finds himself sharing quarters with some of the most dangerous criminals in the world.
Soon after his arrival, and after the meeting with the prison's warden Hobbes (Caviezel), Ray senses that something is wrong; no one seems to know who he is or what he's there to accomplish. Realising that he needs to escape the as soon as possible, Ray befriends Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and the duo soon learn that escaping the prison walls is not as easy as they think.
Never ones to shy away from the spotlight, it's surprising to learn that this long-awaited matchup has been in the works for quite some time. Therefore, it's even more surprising that neither actor appears fully connected to their roles. Seemingly set in their ways, both Stallone and Schwarzenegger rely heavily on a repertoire of cheesy one liners and overflowing bravado.
Additionally, almost every scene is shot with extreme close-ups, which proves rather unflattering for the time-worn stars. With very few action scenes, Stallone and Schwarzenegger are given little room to do what they do best. Meanwhile, despite being full of familiar faces, the supporting cast are neglected by the story, instead giving the spotlight to a watered down Sylvester and Arnie.
Escape Plan is filled with recognisable action film traits – but not the good kind. This is a film with a predictable plot, awful dialogue and far too many clichés, whose only potential redeeming features are equally downtrodden.
The Step Up franchise is known for one thing and one thing only; the choreography. Forget the formulaic plot lines, stiff acting and the predictably cheesy romantic set-ups; it’s the moves and the spectacular dance routines that keep the fans coming back for more.
Written by John Swetnam and Duane Adler, Step Up All In takes us back to the streets of L.A, where Sean Asa (Guzman) and his dance crew, the Mob, have been struggling to make it big in the City of Angels. After failing to pass the auditions and receiving one too many rejections, the crew decide that it’s time to pack up their bags and head back to Miami, leaving a still determined Sean behind.
Luckily, he soon comes across his old-buddy Moose (Sevani) who - just like his pal - hasn’t been able to earn a living from dancing and, as a result, has decided to take on a steady and a relatively boring job as an engineer. After running into Jasper (Jones) and his obnoxious crew of dancers, the Grim Knights, Sean stumbles on a Las Vegas dance competition online – hosted by the unnecessarily eccentric Alex (Miko) - called the Vortex, where the winning dance crew earns a three-year dance contract at Ceasers Palace.
With no crew by his side, Sean turns to Moose for help who decides to call on his old-buddies for help, including the hot-headed and talented Andie (Evigan). Can Sean pull it together for the final dance-off and win the opportunity of a lifetime?
Detested by critics, but seemingly loved by fans, it’s very hard to ignore the amount of absurdity that surrounds Step Up’s super-cheesy and predictable premise. On the other hand, it’s equally hard not to be at least a little impressed with the elaborate choreography. Directed by Trish Sie – a well known music-video choreographer – Step Up All In goes all out to impress and it manages to dazzle its way through all the way until the big finale.
On the downside, the 3D is once again pretty futile and the acting, is still pretty abysmal; it’s lucky that Sevani, as the goofy and always-game Moose, is there to pick up the pieces.
For what it’s worth, Step Up All In will be welcomed by fans an impressive addition to the series. Who cares if they can’t act; at least they can dance.
Unable to take the plunge and fully immerse itself into its own pool of ideas, Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime – drawn from the pages of Elmore Leonard’s 1978’s novel, The Switch – is, sadly, neither here nor there.
Set in Detroit, Michigan circa 1978, Life of Crime is centred on inept and useless low-level criminals, Louis (Hawkes) and Ordell (Def), who hope to extract one million dollars from drunken real-estate developer, Frank Dawson (Robbins), for the kidnapping of his seemingly lonely socialite wife, Mickey (Aniston).
The plan seems pretty straightforward at first, but little did they know that Frank – who’s busy canoodling with his young mistress, Melanie (Fisher) at their vacation home in Florida – has already filed for divorce and is now more than happy to use this opportunity to sidestep the obligatory alimony payments.
Now that Frank has called their bluff, things get a little complicated for the hopeless thugs who have clearly not done their research and even more so when Mickey – who is being held hostage at a home of a Nazi-loving fanatic, Richard (Boone Jr.) – comes to realise that her matrimonial bliss has now truly come to end. The deepening relationship between Louis and Mickey only adds fire to the fuel, causing a riff between the two partners, who seem to be running out of both ideas and time.
While the film still manages to serve its purpose and deliver the goods – through a mix of black comedy and slow-burning tension –Schechter, who also wrote the adaptation, plays it too safe; an approach that doesn’t really allow for Elmore Leonard’s distinctive storytelling style to shine through. Life of Crime is not the first Elmore Leonard adaptation – see Tarantino’s Jackie Brown and Sonnefeld’s Get Shorty. Unlike those to adaptations, this lacks an edge, leaving it rather placid.
Aniston shines as the lonely trophy wife whose kidnapping – although distressing – also ends up being a one-way ticket out of her isolated and troublesome marriage. The actress, who is not usually seen in these types of roles, manages to show great versatility and the chemistry shared between her and Hawkes is equally convincing. Robbins is persuasive as the alcoholic, two-timing husband while Fisher was deliciously manipulative as the seductive mistress.
Capturing the 70’s era with plenty of polish and charm, Life of Crime is rather forgettable, despite occasionally popping into action – the source material deserved better.