Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Escape Plan 2: Hades

In the first film, Ray Breslin’s security firm was headquartered in Los Angeles. Now, its in Atlanta. The tax credits must be better there. They really ought to move the company to China, because that is clearly where this sequel expected to do most of its business. When you think about it, it rather makes sense Chinese movie patrons would be so interested in breaking out of prison. It is a new high-tech, off-the-books prison, but Breslin is as slippery as ever in Steven C. Miller’s Escape Plan 2: Hades (trailer here), which releases this Friday on VOD.

Breslin’s specialty, showing up private prisons, has not earned him a lot of friends. Unfortunately, the rescue operation that goes bad during the prologue will not help matters much either. Still, he can be philosophical about setbacks, like dead hostages, because he plays go with his new protégé, Shu. Despite his martial arts skills, Shu is the first member of the team whisked away to the double-secret Hades facility, while watching the back of tech entrepreneur Ma Yusheng, a somewhat estranged childhood friend.

Ma is the target of a paying customer, but it soon becomes clear Hades’ “Zookeeper” is rounding up members of Breslin’s firm for reasons of personal payback. This facility with its constantly morphing structure and largely automated support services poses a particular challenge to Breslin. His three golden rules for escape have always been: learn the layout, learn the routine, and get outside help. So, time to improvise.

Escape Plan 2 is only releasing on VOD and DVD, which is a shame, because surely there are [older] fans out there who would enjoy watching Sylvester Stallone team-up with Dave Bautista, but they might not get the word without a theatrical release. Most likely, it was to protect Stallone from stupid click-bate pieces on how low the per-screen-average was for his latest film, even though the marketing was entirely targeted at the VOD market (these seem to be a specialty of Yahoo Movies). At least it spares the studio the agonizing decision of whether they should launch a best supporting actor Oscar campaign for Bautista or 50 Cent.

Chinese super-star Huang Xiaoming handles about seventy-five percent of the fight scenes, which is a shrewd decision. He definitely has the chops and the physicality. Stallone looks fine as a guy drinking coffee in a café, but he is starting to push it as an action hero. Again, Miller and screenwriter Miles Chapman wisely have Breslin play a more Picard-like role in the first two acts, but they just cannot keep Stallone out of the big climatic rumble. As Breslin’s friendly rival Trent DeRosa, Bautista swaggers through the film like it is all a big lark to him, which it probably was—and yet that works. 50 Cent and Jaime King do not have much to do as Breslin’s support staff, but Titus Welliver sort of upstages the primary villain as the Zookeeper’s tough talking deputy, Gregor Faust.

Hades was conceived as the first part of a sequel duology, but it definitely has plenty of closure, despite clearly suggesting where the in-the-works third film will go. Granted, Hades is not a transcendent masterpiece, but it is considerably more enjoyable than many films Stallone made in his prime (remember Rhinestone, Oscar, or Over the Top?). This is totally a B-Movie, but Huang and Bautista bring quite a bit of value-added. If you enjoy attitude and testosterone, Escape Plan 2: Hades should happily distract you when it releases this Friday (6/29) on DVD, BluRay, and VOD.