REVIEW: Escape Plan: The Extractors
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Devon Sawa, Max Zhang, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Harry Shum,Jr., Daniel Bernhardt and Jamie King
DIRECTED BY: John Herzfeld
Official Synopsis: Screen legend Sylvester Stallone kicks this explosive action tale into high gear. After security expert Ray Breslin (Stallone) is hired to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Hong Kong tech mogul from a formidable Latvian prison, Breslin’s girlfriend (Jaime King) is also captured. Now he and his team, which includes Dave Bautista and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, must pull off a deadly rescue mission to confront their sadistic foe and save the hostages before time runs out.
THE REVIEW: Back in 2013, action icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up once again for the very entertaining Escape Plan which had Stallone taking on the role of security expert Ray Breslin who is tasked with infiltrating a prison to flesh out its weaknesses only to be set up and have to escape for real with the help of mysterious prisoner Rottmayer played by Arnie. The film was a great throwback to the heyday of action cinema when the two stars dominated the box office and while it wasn’t a massive hit in the states, it was in China leading to a Chinses production company shelling out some bucks for two sequels to carry on the story.
The first sequel Escape Plan: Hades was sort of a mess and it was marred by critics and audiences alike with Stallone only being in half of the movie. On a good note, wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista enetered the picture to take over for Schwarzenegger but was in the film even less and wasn’t given that much to do. Stallone even came out and said it was one of the worst films he had been associated with. I’ll go on record and say that I did enjoy the film for what it was and consider it a guilty pleasure of my collection.
All is forgiven as the third entry in the franchise, Escape Plan: The Extractors, brings the series back to its throwback action roots and delivers an entertaining 90 minutes of firepower and fisticuffs. It also helps a great deal that the production has included martal arts wizard Max Zhang from Master Z: Ip Man Legacy for the fun and he elevates the action scenes to full throttle. Stallone and Buatista are back and I’m happy to say that even though this is still an ensemble film, the two powerhouses are certainly in it more and deliver the goods!
As the film opens we are introduced to Lester Clark, Jr. (Devon Sawa), son of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character from the first film who was Breslin’s partner who double crossed him. Junior wants revenge for the murder of his dad and he has a massive chip on his shoulder and he has Breslin and his gang locked in his sights. As part of his plan, Lester kidnaps a Chinese Heiress as well as Abigail Ross, played by Jamie King, who is Breslin’s girlfriend. To make matters worse, Lester has imprisoned the two ladies in one of the worst prisons in the world affectionately known as Devil’s Station. This place makes Alcatrz look like a Sunday school picnic.
Of course, this doesn’t sit well with Breslin so he gathers up his crew including Bautista’s Trent DeRosa and Hush, played once again by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, to go in and get them out. Added to the mix are two Asian ass kickers named Shen (Zhang) and Bao (Shum) who both have connections to the Chinese Heiress. What follows next is a breathtaking battle that will pit Breslin and his merry gang against Clark and his army of highly paid killers.
Now like I said, all is forgiven from the second film as this entry takes the franchise back to its low down and dirty roots of wonderful throwback action cinema. The film is never boring and all the participants get a chance to shine in the action department. Stallone has teamed up with friend John Herzfeld to helm the movie and Herzfeld knows what to fix from the last film. Both Stallone and Bautista are featured more heavily and the supporting cast including Sawa, Zhang, Shum and Jackson all pull their weight in spades. Where the second film went off course with an almost Sci-fi feel, Stallone and Herzfeld reel it back in to its action roots.
In terms of talking about the villain, Devon Sawa, who I loved in Nikita, is a great addition to the franchise as he plays Lester Clark, Jr. Sawa keeps it grounded and low key which is perfect for the role and he never goes off the rails like some villains do in action films. He’s just pissed off and he has the means to act on it. Even though he’s a bad guy here, he’s got that certain on screen gravitas and I would certainly welcome seeing him play an action hero of his own in a kick ass flick.
The action in the film will delight genre fans and it comes courtesy of the super stars of the 87Eleven action team and again, they do not disappoint. While fans cried foul in the second one with Bautista only delivering a little bit of action, here he gets a hell of a lot more to do and we even get to see him square off against an equally ominous opponent. Plus he gets to obliterate thugs with a really big gun so that’s always a plus in my book. Zhang gets to display his awesome array of martial arts mastery and Shum, who comes from a dance background, shines as well in the fight scenes too.
It was also great to see Daniel Bernhardt (Bloodsport 2, 3, 4) get in on the action again and it is great to see him get a well deserved resurgence as of late and here, he gets to take on Zhang in a punishing affair of fisticuffs. He might be slightly older but he still has the deadly moves and the charisma and I would love to see him headline more and return to starring roles in action films in the future.
Stallone, of course, is the real draw of the film and now in his 70’s, Sly still can hold his own with the best of them. His highlight comes at the finale as he takes on Sawa’s Clark, Jr. in a dizzying brawl that wasn’t choreograped at all. They just went in and filmed it in a tiny cell so a tip of my hat to them. It comes off as brutal and unforgiving which it should giving the history that these two men share. As a child of 80’s and 90’s action cinema, it’s always a treat to see Stallone lay out the bad guys and he can do it as long as he can if you aske me.
Now it goes without saying that the budget for this film isn’t near what the first one was but that’s OK because I’m a fan of moviemakers making a mountain out of a mole hill. You don’t need a lot of cash to make an exciting action flick. All you need is a group of people who know what they are doing and love what they are doing and that is what you have here. With all the talent involved with this production, you can see it in the finished product on the screen.
To sum it all up, Escape Plan: The Extractors delivers exactly what you would expect in a film like this starring action greats like this. It had a wonderful Expendables type feel to it with all the action stars that were involved with it and fans will be delighted to see them all get down and gritty with exceptional fight action that is shot well and edited well. Although there are a few hiccups here and there, the film knows what it is and it shouts it loud and proud. I’m not a stuffy critic and if I enjoy film then I let people know. With this film I knew what I was walking into and Stallone and company did not disappoint and it makes me want an Expendables sequel even more and by all means, include this great cast if and when you do it. If you want stripped down and brutal action then look no further!
Be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Lester Clark, Jr. himself, Devon Sawa, where we talk all about the new film. Click Here!
VERDICT: 4.5 Out of 5 Stars
Escape Plan: The Extractors is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!