Escape Plan


Viewed – 24 March 2015  Blu-ray

I haven’t been that interested in this 80s action hero revival that began with The Expendables movies (the first one was bad enough) as I felt there was too much of a nudge-nudge wink-wink attitude going on, that seemed to poke fun at the stars I had once adored.  However this prison-set actioner looked a bit more serious, and well, what’s not to be appealed by a Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up?

escape-plan

Stallone plays a guy who specialises in testing the security of prisons, and has been able to break out of every prison he has been planted in.  However when approached by the CIA to test a top-secret facility, Stallone jumps at the chance to truly put his skills to the test.  However everything is not quite as it seems, and soon he’s inside a high-tech prison even he is unsure can be escaped from.  So he befriends fellow inmate Schwarzenegger who has an agenda of his own.

It’s a fairly complicated set up for what is basically a slightly more tongue-in-cheek ‘Escape from Alcatraz’.  We get a shady warden who seems utterly corrupt, a psychotic henchman who takes too much pleasure in beating up inmates (a snarling Vinnie Jones) and a kindly doctor who takes an interest in Stallone & Arnie’s plight (Sam Neil looking a tad bored).  The plot gets rather convoluted at times (such as the warden’s evil scheme, something to do with a banker?) – but we’re not here for meaningful characters or absorbing plot.  What we do get is plenty of violence, action and intrigue as we watch our heavy-weight heroes devise plan after plan to escape their surroundings.  Stallone struggles with the explain-to-the-viewer dialogue due to his almost incomprehensive drawl, and Arnie seems fairly tired and a shadow of his former self … until he gets a moment where he lays waste to a slew of bad guys with a high powered machine gun … complete with a knowing grin.

I had fun with this.  It’s clichéd, gets pretty silly at times, but retains an 80s vibe of daft plot, maximum action such movies cut their teeth on back in the day.  Entertaining nonsense that’s worth your time if you were ever a fan of these guys.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Midnight Meat Train


Viewed – 01 June 2009  DVD

I read this short story quite a few years ago and was part of the reason I became such an admirer of writer / painter / director Clive Barker.  Oh, that and his debut movie, the legendary Hellraiser.  Yet it is also a sad fact that this guy’s directorial work has been very hit and miss, and I suspect that making films is not where his heart is at, instead choosing to be one of the best horror / fantasy writers around.   This movie is a fleshed out version of said little known short story in his acclaimed collection of stories known as Books Of Blood; grizzly, gory horror tales packed with imagination and terror.  Thankfully though this isn’t just another bastardisation of his material, but instead one he has had plenty of involvement with … even if on a whole his talent is mostly absent.

A photographer on the verge of hitting the big time becomes involved in the case of a missing super model he mistakenly photographs on the night of her disappearance, and his investigations lead him to a mysterious train passenger who also works for a meat factory, and may be involved in the model’s disappearance.  Of course we quickly discover that said train passenger is a brutal serial killer who (quite literally) butchers train passengers in the middle of the night, and the photographer finds his life in danger when the killer finds out about his investigation.

What helps this rise (slightly) above the glut of by-the-numbers horror is inventive, stylish direction from Ryûhei Kitamura, and some very gory set pieces, that are only let down by a heavy dose of CGI that ends up making some of the gore look fake.  Thankfully though there’s plenty of entertainment to be had from Vinny Jones’ word-less killer, his mere presence carrying the film, and Bradley Cooper proves a likable anti-hero even if there’s plenty of actors who could have filled his shoes and done just as well, if not better.

For a Clive Barker movie, its glossy, gory fun but not much else … and his name deserves better.  Yet taken on its own merits, this is a decent slice of horror with enough style and striking images to linger in the memory.

Verdict:  3 /5