REVIEW: Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018)
This 2018 American action movie, sequel to the 2013 film ‘Escape Plan’, is directed by Steven C. Miller and stars Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Huang Xiaoming, Jaime King, Jesse Metcalfe, Titus Welliver, Curtis Jackson and Wes Chatham.
Security expert Ray Breslin (Stallone) owns and operates a top security company. His team design and test secure prisons globally, but also work to free the innocent from impenetrable corrupt lockups. When one of his own team, Shu Ren (Huang), is attacked in Thailand and dropped into a secure prison known as ‘Hades’, it’s down to Breslin and his team to locate and free Shu before it is too late.
A face from Breslin’s past holds the key to Shu’s freedom, so he enlists old friend Trent DeRosa (Bautista) to help infiltrate Hades and work on the impossible; breaking in, saving Shu and finding out why Breslin’s team suddenly have become targets…
Teaming up 80s action superstars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2013 was a dream come true for many. ‘Escape Plan’ was a love-letter to the prison/buddy films of the 80s and 90s with its simple but engaging characters and some quality action. Yet it was seeing these two on-screen having a blast in a tough-talking, bone-crunching piece of popcorn entertainment that made the original so appetising.
Five years later, at a time when nobody needed a sequel unless it brought back the Austrian Oak, director Steven C. Miller takes charge of this effort that sees a budget slashed by over 50%, a supporting cast of questionable talent, awful production, cheap and embarrassing CGI and the introduction of Dave Bautista to provide the muscle opposite Stallone. But when Stallone and Bautista appear to be in different movies until the final 20 minutes or so, the whole thing just looks disjointed and lazy.
The biggest insult, I think, is headlining Stallone and Bautista as the stars. Clearly a marketing ploy to gain interest in the sequel, but embarrassing when Chinese action star Huang Xiaoming clearly is our lead but is relegated to supporting credits. Stallone is hardly in the film, relegated to Mr. Exposition and then coming to “save the day” in the final act.
Yet as Chinese film production company Leomus Pictures helped finance this effort, the influence is clear for all to see with a heavy Asian cast and location used, which by no means is a bad thing, but trying to pull this off after a very ‘all-American’ original film doesn’t work. The themes are radically different, the tone is different – everything is so different with desperate links to keep this in some sort of “cinematic universe” revolving around a now wooden Stallone as Breslin. Clearly he’s not into this as he was the first time around, and neither is Bautista. Both have far more lucrative and appealing projects to focus on, so this just looks like a time waster to earn a fast paycheck.
Everything is convenient now as it is in most movies that rely on super-technology as a plot device. The prison can be operated by the touch of a button, and so too can our security operatives and their gadgets. In a prison supposedly impenetrable, they still handwave the fact in-mates can map the layout just by using their mind (or the Force it seemed) and can smuggle in equipment and fashion what they need when they need it to break the system.
With a strange science fiction vibe to things rather than a tense, brutal almost militaristic regime we saw the first time, the narrative plays out like a mix of ‘Mortal Kombat’ meets ‘Lock Up’, but without the fun of either. The story is unengaging, the villain is laughable and the whole set-up just looks like a TV-movie. While prison movies are restricted to what they can do and how they can do it, ‘Escape Plan 2’ manages to suck all potential from what they have to play with to offer a very slow, repetitive, un-exciting and nauseating (the overuse of shaky cam returns) slog. About five minutes of action in Bautista’s bar caught my attention and excited me. Then it was all over and I lost interest again. It wasn’t enough to gain one full fat star.
I’m glad Schwarzenegger stayed away from this. I just wish Stallone had too because he’s better than this. Then again, with ‘Escape Plan 3’ already in production, maybe I need to evaluate how I perceive his career choices.
Directed by: Steven C. Miller
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Xiaoming Huang, Jesse Metcalfe, 50 Cent, Wes Catham, Titus Welliver, Jaime King