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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.
At first glance, Oliver Blackburn’s Kristy seems to be just another home-invasion thriller that does very little to elevate the standard tropes of the genre. However, thanks to masterfully-built, slow-burning tension, Kristy still delivers a few delightful frights.
Penned by Anthony Jaswinski, Kristy is set in Portland, Oregon and opens with a news report about a group of missing twenty-something year-old girls whose murdered bodies have been turning up across the country, with their deaths looking to be a result of a satanic ritual.
The story soon shifts its focus on Justine (Bennett); a young college student who gets stuck alone on campus during the Thanksgiving break. Unable to travel home for the holidays – mainly due to lack of finances – she decides to stay behind to hang out with roommate, Nicole (Ash), and use the peace and quiet to catch up on her studies.
After saying goodbye to boyfriend, Scott (Ransone) – who is reluctant of leaving her behind – she learns that Nicole too will leave to spend time with her family in Aspen, leaving Justine completely alone with a couple of security guards and a groundskeeper for company. After stepping off campus to get herself a well-deserved midnight snack, Justine runs into a mysterious hooded girl called Violet (Greene).
It’s not long before Justine learns that she has been followed back to the campus by Violet and her mask-wearing buddies who will do anything in their power to get their hands on another innocent victim.
Light on the gore, but easy on the eye, Oliver Blackburn’s Kristy is enriched with stunning visuals and clever camerawork that allows the audience to feel – and almost taste - the isolation and anxiety that surrounds the film’s heroine. The opening scenes – used to observe Justine’s newly-found solitude – create a fittingly claustrophobic atmosphere.
Forceful and compelling, Bennett proves to be a pretty decent choice for the lead and her transition from a young college girl into a survivor is built well. Greene, on the other hand, doesn’t fare quite as well; bland and expressionless, her contribution was pretty ineffective and, just like the rest of her gang, lacking the edge to make an impact as the villain of the story. The broody demeanour just doen't connect.
Kristy is filled with a sense of implausibility, but if you’re able to suspend your disbelief just a little more and overlook its flaws – the overpowering music cues and some rather predictable and cheesy horror traps, for example – you will find that Kristy is a decent entry to the increasingly saturated horror genre.
Taking on what’s probably one of the most implausible premises known to man, the latest offering from Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua, goes a little too far on bending the laws of reason and logic in the exceptionally contrived, cheesy and the remarkably violent, The Equalizer.
The story follows the life of one Robert McCall (Washington); a friendly, cautious and an unassuming middle-aged man who spends his days working the floors of a local Home-Mart, before returning home to a tidy one-bedroom apartment to eat his dinners alone. Suffering from a serious case of insomnia – and what appears to be a generous touch of OCD – Robert spends most of his evenings at a local diner, rearranging cutlery, reading books and enjoying the unobtrusive company of other restless souls.
On one such night, he befriends Teri (Moretz); a troubled young woman - and a frequent diner visitor – who earns her cash working as a high-end hooker for anunforgiving Russian pimp, Slavi (Munier). It’s obvious to Robert, who takes an instant liking to the young girl, that she has lost her way and encourages her to change her world and pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well for Teri, who - as Robert soon finds out - is landed in the hospital by her employers.
Unable to sit back and ignore, Robert decides to take matters into his own hands and soon finds his way to Slavi – and the rest of his crew - to buy Teri’s freedom from them. However, when the Russians decline, Robert has no choice but to take extreme measures; a move which quickly puts him in the crosshairs of the Russian mob.
The Equalizer is actually based, very loosely, on a little television show from the late eighties. However, the similarities stop at the character’s name; everything else has been changed and tailored to fit Washington’s trademark bad-ass passiveness, which just so happens to echo his character from the highly superior Man on Fire. Taking its time to develop, the first half of the film is dedicated to introducing us to the main character which is actually pretty engaging. However, the script loses its shape the minute the violence is unleashed. It's here that Fuqua, who also decides to channel in every single cliché from the book of revenge, crumbles and the idea of a man fighting – totally unaided - against the Russian mob seems like something that is probably better saved for the Die Hard franchise instead.
One thing is for certain, though, without Washington’s captivating and grounded presence, The Equalizer wouldn’t have amounted to very much.