Sylvester Stallone has been dipping into the China market, of late. This isn’t anything new, really. For years now, Hollywood has been tweaking their films to satisfy the demands of the Chinese government and gain access to their huge market, with mixed results. There’s no tweaking in the latest Escape Plan flick, however. This film looks made for the Chinese market, and if anything comes of it in other markets, that’s just gravy for this film’s 48 credited producers. Seriously, 48! I counted nine production company logos at the start, eating up 1:45 of this flick’s 96-minute running time. Major League Baseball has shorter commercial breaks between innings.
In Escape Plan: The Extractors, Sly returns as prison security expert Ray Breslin. He’s not being hired to evaluate the security of a prison in this one, however. This is a revenge flick.
Back at the end of the first Escape Plan flick, Breslin did a nasty thing to his corrupt business partner, Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio, in archive footage). Fast forward to today, and Lester Clark, Jr. (Devon Sawa) is ready for his revenge.
Junior starts out by kidnapping Daya Zhang (Melise), the daughter of Wu Zhang (Russell Wong), billionaire businessman and secret partner of Lester Sr. Daya was in Mansfield, Ohio, scouting locations for a new factory for her father’s company, before being whisked away to a crumbling prison in Latvia called Devil’s Station. This is a little filmmaking by convenience on the part of director John Herzfeld and company. Mansfield is also home to the Ohio State Reformatory, a former prison in a state of arrested decay that has featured in many productions to date, most notably The Shawshank Redemption. This is a film that required a prison from which to execute an escape plan, and if the filmmakers could fit the rest of the town in the flick, then all the better.
So, suspend disbelief a little and pretend that Lester Jr, Daya, his thugs, and her co-workers, are all in a prison in Latvia, and not on location in Northeast Ohio.
Lester Jr isn’t finished, though. He’s pissed off at Ray, remember. So, he kidnaps Ray’s fiancée and business partner, Abigail (Jaime King), and takes her away to Devil’s Station, as well. Now Ray is pissed, too. So, off he goes to Latvia to rescue everyone from Junior’s clutches. He’s accompanied by Bao Yung (Harry Shum, Jr.), Daya’s bodyguard who failed to prevent the kidnapping; and Shen Lo (Jin Zhang), who used to be Daya’s bodyguard but was fired after the two fell in love. Those two are pretty pissed, as well. The only person along for the ride who’s not pissed is Trent DeRosa (Dave Bautista). But, he has a shotgun that melts faces, and that would make anyone happy.
The rest of the film is a collection of fistfights, knife fights, martial arts fights, gunfights, and brutal murder. And I do mean brutal. Characters meet their ends in grisly fashion. The only cartoonish thing about the deaths in this movie is the CGI blood, which is amateurish and unconvincing.
Even with the over-the-top deaths, the action is pretty satisfying for a shitty action flick. That’s one thing Herzfeld and company got right. It’s the other stuff, mostly the messy plot and dim lighting, where things go wrong.
In many ways, this film is The Expendables-light. It has the same look and feel, the same unlikable characters, and the same oppressive atmosphere, only Sly didn’t invite every aging action star under the sun to be in the cast. Perhaps things would have been different were Sly among the infamous 48 producers, but he’s just hired help in this one.
Escape Plan: The Extractors, is a watchable shitty movie for the most part. It moves along swiftly and ticks all the right boxes for the shitty action movie fan. But, man, is it a bummer. At times, it just feels mean. I don’t think I’ll be repeating the experience anytime soon. For being something of a brutal watch, the film falls to the middle of Watchability Index, where all the Resident Evil flicks live, displacing The Being at #166.