Anyone who took the time to watch Escape Plan 2, will be in no doubt that there would be little expectation surrounding the straight to DVD (if that’s even a thing anymore) film, Escape Plan 3. This trilogy began with the joining of two action film stalwarts in a movie that pitted them as both partners and enemies in a single measure.
Sylvester Stallone’s Ray Breslin, the prison escape expert, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer were in a meeting of minds to find a way out of an unbreakable black site prison on a container ship in the middle of neutral waters.
Their performances alongside a great cast of enemies including Jim Caviezel as Hobbes and Vincent D’Onofrio as Lester Clark made this action movie and long-awaited union of Stallone and Schwarzenegger into the creative action movie with unexpected twists and turns everyone hoped it would be.
The first sequel, in contrast, was nothing short of dire. With only Stallone returning of the four aforementioned actors and a new director attached, the only hope was the writing that created the unpredictability and excitement of the first film would return at the hands of novice screenwriter Miles Chapman.
However, after viewing both Escape Plan and Escape Plan, you might claim that there was some beginner’s luck involved. The sequel is an almost disparate event from the original, though it involves a further prison break from a black site jail, Breslin finds this too hard to complete independently like in the earlier film.
The jail designers took on board his escape and his research and published work about maintaining prison security and made the job “impossible” for Breslin. Instead, Trent Derosa (Dave Bautista) is introduced to muscle in and save the day.
Derosa is far too present throughout the film and Breslin is entirely lacking in screen time. Escape Plan 2 becomes a vehicle to introduce Derosa as a character within the universe and portray his expertise, arguably ahead of greater collaboration between him and Breslin in the third film.
However, what it led to was a film bereft of Breslin’s genius and carefully thought through escape attempts, leaving Derosa to ‘wrestle’ his way through and make poorly written comments that jar with the audience.
There were clear attempts to allude to Bautista’s WWE past in his acting choices, which prevented Derosa appearing to make intelligent choices and portray him on the same kind of level as Breslin. Instead, he seems to be just the muscle, juggernaut his way through bad guys and using violence to solve complex situations.
The quality of Escape Plan 2 was even overtly discussed by its star, Sylvester Stallone, before the premiere of Escape Plan 3. He made comments to imply that making Escape Plan 2 was the worst filming experience of his life and that he disliked the film entirely.
We can take these comments with a pinch of salt as he was trying to upsell Escape Plan 3, and essentially backing up the comments of worldwide reviewers in slating the quality of Escape Plan 2.
Not surprisingly Escape Plan 3 saw a third director in the series and was, like the second film, slated to go straight to DVD. This film returns explicitly to the storyline of the first film and almost seems to build from that as if the second film didn’t exist.
In the film, the son of one of the antagonists (Lester Clark, played by Vincent D’Onofrio in the original), the imaginatively named Lester Clark Jr. (Devon Sawa) kidnaps the daughter (Daya Zhang, played by Melissa) of black site prison funder Wu Zhang (Russell Wong) as revenge for his father’s death. As well as this, Clark Jr. also kidnaps Abigail Ross (Jaime King), Breslin’s co-worker and love interest.
This film seeks to add more of a martial arts feel to it with the inclusion of strong male leads in Daya’s bodyguard and former bodyguard, Bao (Harry Shum Jr.) and Shen (Jin Zhang) respectively. There is an MMA fell to the film and the action scenes with various Chinese and Japanese martial arts on show from Bao and Shen, alongside a clear sports entertainment/ brawler style demonstrated by Dave Bautista.
If you are into action this is a great film; if you want an engaging storyline with characters you care about and engage with, not so much.
This film steps away from the original and its first sequel. Though a lot of the film takes part in a black site prison if a cheaper, lower-budget version of one; there isn’t an escape central to the storyline.
Instead, the storyline is a straight forward kidnapping story, much like many action films that have gone before it including anything from Taken and The Transporter, to Gone Baby Gone and Man on Fire. There is no originality in the storyline.
What jars the most is the kidnapping of Abigail Ross. Initially, this makes sense to create further unrest and agitation from Breslin. He then puts greater effort into his rescue attempts as it is not just Daya to save from his former partner’s son, he has a greater vested interest.
Clark Jr.’s hand is trying to be forced by his henchmen to kill Ross to get back at Breslin. Clark Jr. argues why that is a bad idea and why he’s keeping her alive…
Within minutes he faces times Breslin and Ross’ throat. This made no sense. There was no reason. Breslin was already riled enough from the kidnappings to come after Clark Jr., who benefitted in no way in the murder of Ross.
Also, if he was going to kill her, why did the writer and/or director go the lengths of including a scene where Clark Jr explicitly says that killing her doesn’t fit with his plans. This twists a character who is well organized, planned out, if malicious, to someone unhinged and out of control. This part of the storyline contradicts many of his central character traits.
Overall this was a pretty decent action experience. I just can’s get past the failures in the storyline and the screenwriting. As many have said, better than the second, not as good as the first.