With Rambo: Last Blood due to hit cinemas September 2019 and a rumoured fourth entry in the Expendables franchise in the works, Sylvester Stallone may be 73, but he is not showing no signs of slowing down. The latest sequel from Stallone, Escape Plan 3 is the third film in the series and the second to get a limited theatrical with a home release.
This may be an unexpected sequel as Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) was met with disappointment by fans and critics, with Stallone himself also making a public statement on Instagram describing it as, “the worst produced film I have ever had the misfortune to be in”. There are several areas in which Hades could have been improved, but one of the the biggest issues was the limited screen time for the film’s main headlined stars. Stallone being the main draw and was given a cameo role and used as a mentor to the main story, and Dave Bautista, who took over from Schwarzenegger as the film’s muscles, despite being a highlight, was given far too little screen time.
Thankfully, Escape Plan 3 was a definite improvement and for the most part they have learned from the mistakes of the previous entry. Where the previous films concentrated on escaping a prison, Escape Plan 3 takes a more traditional and old school approach, this time reversing the roles with the team breaking into a former derelict prison.
When the daughter of a Hong Kong tech executive is kidnapped and held hostage in a Latvian prison, it is down to Breslin and his crew to get her out. However, when it turns out the perpetrator is the son of a former foe who also has Breslin’s girlfriend captive, things get personal.
The film brings back Stallone in a more prominent role, once again as Ray Breslin, although we do see a different side to his character. The usually calm, calculated Breslin moving towards the more violent angst we are used to seeing from Rambo. You can see the change in the character with a rather bloody takedown of the guards without remorse, but it is a brilliant final showdown that provides us with one of Stallone’s most ruthless moments on screen. In a savage drawn out fight he continues to brutally taunt his opponent, whilst taking his time to inflict as much pain as possible.
Bautista returns in a supporting role as Trent DeRosa and once again remains one of the highlights of the film, adding some violent comical relief. Unfortunately, once again his character should have been used more, especially as he is displayed as one of the main characters and named on the front cover .
If you felt Bautista was underused after being promoted on the front cover, I can only assume that the UK release has cut the footage from 50 Cent. Despite getting a highlighted credit and promotional picture on the front, in Escape Plan 3 he has the least screen time from all of the films. It does feel as though he was invited on set for the day just to be included in the credits, with the additional flashback footage used to fill out the role.
In addition to the more mainstream names in the cast the film does also boast some amazing support. Martial arts legend Jin Zhang, who many will be remember from the IP Man series as Cheung Tin-chi, is excellent in the film and his speed and ability offers something different to the cast and as always is brilliant to watch. More surprisingly however is Harry Shum Jr. who plays the head of security Bao, initially assigned to protect the daughter of a Hong Kong tech executive. He has proved his acting ability in previous films, but here he continues to move further away from his role in Glee (2009- 2015) as he proves himself to be well suited to an action style role.
The action is what you would expect from a more straight to video movie, with excessive and a sometimes unnecessary use of CGI being hit and miss; a theme which is also reflected in the guard’s ability to shoot Breslin and his crew. When it comes down to the action, however, the film does deliver an array of well executed action set pieces, although, it is the individual showdowns in the concluding part of the film which remain the most memorable.
For the most part Escape Plan 3 delivers what you would expect, a popcorn movie where you can relax and enjoy, with an element of predictability that you would expect. However, it does throw in a darker twist to the story, one which takes you by surprise as it suddenly leads the film in a different direction in a thirst for revenge.
There is a theatrical release, but this works better as one to watch at home. It may not be ground-breaking and it’s far away from being a perfect film, but it is still better than most and a huge improvement on the second entry in the series. Stallone proves once again that he is still one of the best action heroes’ in film and as we await the release of Rambo: Last Blood in September, this is the perfect warm up to get you ready for the main attraction.