Escape Plan from 2013 featured the long awaited feature length team-up between action icons Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the two briefly shared the screen in The Expendables franchise, this would be the first film to rely solely on their chemistry, and while children of a certain age once fantasied of Rambo Vs The Terminator, Escape Plan wasn’t quite the momentous event they had hoped for.
The movie was a perfectly fine thriller and the two actors paired together well, but it was a far cry from their heyday and was promptly forgotten once it left cinemas.
So, it was something of a surprise when Escape Plan 2: Hades was announced. While the first movie did middling business in the U.S. it did great numbers overseas, so the sequel has become a U.S./China co-production, and Schwarzenegger has been swapped out for a new character played by Dave Bautista (Guardians Of The Galaxy).
Except, it wouldn’t be completely honest to claim Stallone and Bautista are the leads. In fact, Stallone has around 15 minutes of screentime – at best – and Bautista has even less.
Stallone returns as breakout specialist Ray Breslin, whose protégé Shu Ren (Huang Xioming) is kidnapped and sent to a high-tech prison dubbed The Zoo. The prisoners inside this hellhole are forced to fight each other to gain privileges, and Breslin and his team need to find it and rescue him. Huang Xiaoming is the true protagonist of Escape Plan 2 and despite sometimes struggling with the amount of dialogue he has to deliver, it can’t be denied he’s got a brooding charisma and pulls off his fight scenes with gusto.
Unfortunately, the fights themselves are pretty lame. Escape Plan 2 was apparently shot in 20 days and it shows in the graceless choreography of most of the brawls. The set used for The Zoo looks like something from a cheap 1990’s sci-fi show and goes way overboard on the neon lighting. Stallone and Bautista have decent chemistry but they only share two scenes in the entire movie, where they should have been the focus.
The rest of the cast – including a returning 50 Cent as the resident computer nerd – are forgettable in roles that require them to spout lifeless exposition and since many of them are shot in tight close-ups, it possible they filmed on separate days too.
It’s a shame, since somewhere inside Escape Plan 2: Hades is a fun b-movie trying to – irony of ironies – break out. Director Steven C. Miller knows his way around a schlocky low-budget action movie, so with a bit more time and money maybe he could have produced something with more of an edge.
It’s not all bad news; the soundtrack by The Newton Brothers is a synth-y delight, there are some nice visuals and the odd piece of action that works, but sadly, Escape Plan 2 is only worth seeking out for the most hardcore Stallone completionists. Bautista and Stallone will return once again for Escape Plan 3: Devil’s Station, so hopefully the third movie learned some lessons from Hades.