2013’s Escape Plan was a pretty big deal for action fans because it was the first time action legends Stallone and Schwarzenegger co-starred together and it was a fun, solid prison break thriller to boot. Five years later, Escape Plan 2: Hades has hit DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand and while it’s still a fun, solid action movie, it also lacks the impact and uniqueness of it’s predecessor.
After escaping The Tomb in the first Escape Plan, Ray Breslin (Stallone) has expanded his security company and hired on a number of young guns to go into the field while he runs things from the sidelines including Shu (Xiaoming Huang), Luke (Jesse Bradford), Kimbral (Wes Chatham), Abigail (Jaime King) and Jules (Lydia Hull). Ray’s main hacker/partner Hush (50 Cent) is still around as well but a mission with the team goes bad a hostage they were rescuing is killed and Kimbral, who went rogue to blow up the hostage taker’s weapons cache, is fired by Ray and Shu is told by Ray that he needs to learn to trust his team and not try do everything by himself. A year later, Shu is visiting his cousin Yusheng (Chen Tang) and the two are captured while out celebrating Yusheng’s upcoming marriage and find themselves in Hades, a new super prison where the prisoners are forced to fight in brutal pit fights and the entire system is automated by an AI called Gallieo. The rest of the team works to find out where Shu and Yusheng disappeared to and Ray brings in Trent Derosa (Dave Bautista), an old acquaintance, to help. The biggest disappointment and thing you should know going in to Escape Plan 2 is that, while they are the headlining names on the box, Stallone and Bautista are very much supporting characters and neither of them does much plot or action wise (Bautista in particular feels he like he shot his stuff on a weekend in between Guardians). Xiaoming Huang is the actual star of the movie as Shu and, once you realize that fact, he is a solid, stoic action hero and an insanely talented martial artist and all of his fight scenes are kinetic and great but it is kind of like going to a steakhouse and them telling you they are out of steak but here’s some chicken instead. It will probably still be good but that’s what you signed up for. There is none of the camaraderie and back and forth that was the driving force of the first Escape Plan as Stallone and Bautista share essentially one scene before they go off on separate leads and there’s definitely nothing like the wonderful insanity of scenes like Arnold delivering a monologue in his native tongue while being tortured. The ending is also absurdly abrupt and sets up a sequel that is on the way but takes away from the resolution of the current movie and they are also setting up some sort of weird subplot where there’s an evil cabal that runs these crazy prisons as they mention that the same people that built The Tomb built Hades and there’s the classic “We’re coming for you!” moment toward the end.
Escape Plan 2 had about $30 million less to work with budget wise than the first film and it does show in some elements of the movie. There’s some pretty terrible CG effects going on and Hades is just not as visually interesting as The Tomb, consisting mainly of hallways and the main fighting area and there’s nothing like the glass cells or the 300esque guards. The supporting cast also seems to have taken a hit as well. I love character actors like Wes Chatham and Titus Welliver (who plays the warden or “zookeeper” of Hades) but the first film had (inexplicably) Amy Ryan, Jim Caviezel, Vincent D’Onofrio and effing Arnold Schwarzenegger; it’s hard to match that on a smaller budget. The budget cut is probably what contributed a lot to the limited screen time of Stallone and Bautista as well, although both are going to back for Escape Plan 3 whenever that is. The action overall is solid throughout thought, including all the aforementioned fights by Huang and the main Stallone/Bautista scene is a bar shootout that is pretty great even though, again, it’s their only main scene together.
Escape Plan 2 is another solid prison break action thriller but the actual nature of the involvement of it’s stars makes it pretty disappointing. It was never go to live up the first without the involvement of Arnold but Bautista is always a welcome addition to anything, which makes it suck even more that there’s basically no interacting between it’s two headlining stars except for one fun scene. This is the perfect Netflix/Redbox movie (and if you rent it from Redbox, you get both Escape Plans for one price, so bonus!) and it is fine for a lazy weekend afternoon but if this had come to theaters, I think we would all be way more pissed at being misled.