"Escape Plan" (Mikael Håfström, 2013), an action film starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a pleasant surprise for me. Stallone was Ray Breslin, a security expert, who believes that there is no prison from which he could not escape from. Despite the obvious B-movie vibe, this film was unexpectedly entertaining and smart, a great watch. I did not expect a sequel, but why not?
In "Escape Plan 2: Hades," Ray Breslin is back as the head of a team of security experts. One of his skillful operatives, Shu Ren, was kidnapped with his tech-savvy cousin, apparently held captive in a high-tech secret prison called Hades. Unlike most prisons, it did not seem to have a specific location, a specific routine or any possibility of inside or outside help that Shu could figure out. Breslin needed to execute an elaborate Plan B to get Shu out.
The first half of the film was focused on Shu (Huang Xiaoming) and how his mind worked to analyze Hades out for a way out. This part of the film actually felt like a Chinese martial arts film. Shu had to rely on his wu-xia fighting skills to win "battles" with fellow inmates in order to gain "sanctuary" time. With the Chinese producers in the credits and all, it actually felt like we were watching a Huang Xiaoming movie, as this guy is a star in his own right in China.
Stallone's action scenes came in only in the second half when it was obvious to Breslin that he needed to enter Hades himself in order to get Shu out. Dave Bautista actually had a very short screen time despite his co-top-billing. Bautista played Trent DaRosa, one of Breslin's old mercenary friends who got roped into the action. The other actors (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Jesse Metcalfe, Jaime King and especially the cheesy Wes Chapman as Kimbral) were not too impressive.
This sequel by Steven C. Miller was a major downer when compared to the first film. It felt disjointed and confused, like two different movies jammed into one. Their escape plan itself was not too well-conceived, a bit too convenient, which was disappointing. Via a comparison of their business operations with a game of Go, there were some moments of zen philosophy to sprinkle a modicum of intellect amidst the mindless violence.
The bad guy and his motive were obvious from the get-go, so it was annoying how he still got as far as he did. The "sci-fi" parts were unconvincing with just a lot of flashy but unimpressive lighting and special effects. The martial arts fight scenes with Huang were not bad, just with a lot of "bone-crunching" sound effects to embellish them. The ending seems to suggest a Part 3, but this forced sequel does not exactly convince us to look forward to it. 4/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."