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Friday
Oct182013

Escape Plan

For fans of 80s action movies, there’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of seeing Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the big screen together. We were lucky enough to see them tear it up in the finale to last year’s “The Expendables 2,” even if the movie itself was a tad bombastic when taken as a whole, but their time together was limited. In their newest, “Escape Plan,” they’re best buds. In fact, once Breslin (Stallone) finds himself locked in a seemingly inescapable high security prison, he and his muscular counterpart are practically inseparable and, naturally, they attempt to break out together. A warning to those 80s action fans: this isn’t the action extravaganza you might be hoping for and, frankly, if you want to see a breaking-out-of-prison movie, you should probably stick with 1979’s masterful “Escape from Alcatraz,” but if you find that movie to be too realistic and crave something a little bit faster, louder and dumber, this will suffice.

The set-up is fairly simple, if a bit absurd. Breslin has a unique talent. He has an uncanny ability to break out of prisons. His job, in a sense, is to incarcerate himself in high security prisons around the country, supposedly inescapable ones, and find their flaws. However, he has just taken on a job that may be too risky even for him. After being drugged and flown to a secret location, he finds himself locked up in a prison unlike anything he’s ever seen. After realizing he was set up to spend the rest of his life here, held captive by the evil warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), he gets determined to break out, but not without the help of Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger).

Other characters in the film, who serve mainly as Breslin’s consultants, are played by the likes of Vincent D’Onofrio, 50 Cent and Amy Ryan in a “what in the world is she doing in this?” role. Aside from some minor moments and a late movie twist, these characters are all throwaway and are there for nothing more than forced exposition. They’re missing for such a large chunk of the movie that by the time they pop up again near the end, you’ve nearly forgotten about them completely. Their inclusion is indicative of a movie with some neat ideas, but no real way to write them in, which is to say, the script is a mess, the dialogue simplistic and the story rote.

But “Escape Plan” is more than the sum of its parts. When it works, it fires on all cylinders, offering up some surprisingly exciting moments, including one slow motion “Arnold moment” that will have all classic action movie fans cheering. It’s with these moments that the film excels, when it throws out any notion of believability or proper storytelling (neither of which are its strong suits) and decides to ham it up—like Stallone’s “Expendables” movies, only less explosion-y.

Where “Escape Plan” falters most is in its careless handling of its two primary villains, the warden and a mystery character I’ve not named. While both actors do what they can in their roles, particularly Caviezel, who chews the scenery in a delightfully campy way, it’s the screenplay that ultimately lets them down, never really giving either much of an identity. Even worse, their send-offs are anticlimactic, amounting to nothing more than disappointing fizzles in a movie that promised more.

When all is said and done, “Escape Plan” will be one of those movies that will be enjoyed, but never watched again by the vast majority of those who see it. It’s a fun enough diversion while it lasts, but it doesn’t do enough to justify repeat viewings. It’s a welcome return for Schwarzenegger, if we can forget about the lackluster “The Last Stand” from earlier this year, and Stallone bounces back nicely after the dreadful “Bullet to the Head” from around the same time. This is not the movie a Stallone/Schwarzenegger crossover should be, but it’s worth a look nevertheless.

Escape Plan receives 3/5

Saturday
Aug072010

Twelve

Coming out of Sundance 2010, Joel Schumacher’s Twelve was being heralded as the worst movie at the festival by some critics. Now it is in limited release and having just sat through it, I can see why. It’s pretty rare for me to give out scores of zero, despite having recently done so for Charlie St. Cloud and Step Up 3D, so I almost feel bad for doing it again here. Almost.

The basic plot of the story is this: there’s a new drug in town called twelve that is making its way around the streets and messing people up. But within that basic story are dozens of characters whose lives intersect, convoluting it all. There’s White Mike (Chace Crawford), the local drug dealer who is still mourning over the death of his mother to breast cancer. His cousin Charlie is hopped up on twelve, though Mike doesn’t supply him with it. He refuses to carry such a drug. Lionel (50 Cent) is Mike’s supplier and is about to have a violent run in with Charlie and a young African American kid named NaNa (Jermaine Crawford). NaNa is on his way home from a game of basketball where he has just been in a fight with Hunter (Philip Ettinger), a rich kid from the Upper East Side, who is about to be accused of murder.

There’s also Sara (Esti Ginzburg), the hottest girl in her school, Molly (Emma Roberts), who has been friends with drug dealer Mike since childhood, Chris (Rory Culkin), the local party thrower, Claude (Billy Magnussen), his steroid taking, unstable brother, and Jessica (Emily Meade), a new junkie who will do anything to get her twelve fix. The list goes on and on. Believe it or not, I haven’t even finished listing all of the characters in this overstuffed film. In fact, before all of them are even introduced, two are killed off. There’s simply too much going on and the descriptive anecdotes for extraneous characters like Chris and Claude’s maid was unnecessary.

Although I suspect this is intentional, the characters in the movie are deplorable. Most, if not all, are rotten rich kids who have every opportunity in the world right in front of them, but squander it due to their drug use. The females in the movie are the type of girls who are so infatuated with themselves that if a guy doesn’t hit on them, they write them off as gay. The guys are all morons whose desire to score with women is the only thing that trumps their desire to score dope. All are poorly juggled. Twelve jumps back and forth from each putrid character like a fly at a picnic ground.

It’s easy to hate the characters from moral and intellectual viewpoints, but the movie is simply too laughable to keep you too angry. Take Jessica for instance, who, as told through ridiculous narration by Kiefer Sutherland, has kept every stuffed bear ever given to her. Well, after taking a hit of twelve, they start to talk to her in a cutesy voice you’d expect to hear in children’s television shows, asking her who she would kill if given the opportunity. It’s supposed to be unsettling, but instead it’s just really, really funny.

By the time Twelve reaches its end, you’ll have already checked out, but that won’t stop memories of the Virginia Tech massacre or the recent Connecticut shootings from infiltrating your thoughts. The climax is so reminiscent of these tragic events that its depiction is downright irresponsible.

To get a good idea of what Twelve has in store for you, consider this: 50 Cent gives the best performance. Take that as you will. My advice is to skip it, but if you really want to see a movie about snooty rich kids suffering through their own self inflicted problems, by all means give it a go.

Twelve receives 0/5