Little Box of Horrors: Escape Plan 2
To kick off traipsing around a second state in search of awfully good movies, I decided to pick some RedBox sanctioned sequels. Escape Plan 2 decided to make some location based changes to its franchise as well, and it
Run Red Run
To re-christen Little Box of Horrors, I wanted something that checked off all the boxes of “so bad it’s good” potential. Does it have a washed up (or resurgent as is often the case with Hollywood’s revolving door) actor/actress? Is it an action movie? And in a special “second state” theme, is it a shameless sequel? I found just the man I was looking for in Sylvester Stallone, who is using his Creed/Expendables cred to take on all comers… for the right price. With Escape Plan 2 that price was probably paid in Renminbi.
Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018)
Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is the famous escape artist that broke the world’s toughest prison: The Tomb. After that brush with death, Ray has decided to let a new generation of “security experts” take over. Fen Shu (Xiaoming Huang) is Breslin’s best student, but he isn’t without flaws. Shu would rather punch first and ask questions later, and he has a real problem with Breslin’s third law of prison-breaking: get help.
When the lone wolf decides to take some personal time, it leads to a gig protecting his billionaire cousin. Yusheng Ma is a brilliant engineer, and he’s created a new satellite that could change the whole power structure of the world. A mysterious man called The Zookeeper kidnaps Shu and Yusheng, secreting them away in an underground prison nicknamed Hades. Shu is going to need a little help from his friends to escape the world’s new toughest prison.
Red Ribbon Army
The first Escape Plan was very much a prison-break flavored film marketed heavily to fans of The Expendables. It starred Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it relied more on star power and muscle than finesse and plot. Escape Plan 2 decided to ditch that demographic and go for the sure thing: the Chinese Box Office. The first ten minutes of the film felt like every Jackie Chan movie he’s made in the last ten years NOT called The Foreigner; the name on the box is not the face you’re going to be looking at for most of the run-time. Sure, Stallone is around, but this is Xiaoming Huang’s film first and foremost.
Pros and Ex-Cons
In its favor, you’re going to get a whole lot more fighting than in Escape Plan. Stallone and Schwarzenegger were definitely past their action movie primes, and the only a farmer would love all the hay being made in that film’s fight scenes. Here we get some fast and furious kung-fu fights. And the film doesn’t shy from using those wushu skills: Hades requires it’s prisoners to fight duels to earn the right to down-time. Escaping Hades is equal parts Shu wracking his brains out and beating other people’s brains in.
To its detriment, Escape Plan 2 loses all the cheesy 80’s movie veneer. Gone are the groan-inducing quips and scenery chewing baddies you’d expect from a Stallone action flick. The villains are generic and cliche: you’ll figure out who the real baddy is way before Shu does. Stallone has a lot less to do in this film, and if you were expecting more #groanforstallone you are going to be disappointed. Curiously, the only big thing Stallone does is bring Dave Bautista in on the plan. Bautista then pretty much disappears from the film until the last five minutes.
I’m assuming Bautista must be a bankable name in China, because he has fuck-all to do with the plot.
You’re (Not) The Best Around
Escape Plan 2 is fairly pedestrian straight to DVD action movie fare. The special effects are hokey, and are trying way to hard to impress you. The first time something explodes in this movie, you’ll be able to eye-ball just what kind of production budget this film was working with. And don’t get me started on Hades’ security system, which apparently is an AI program that developed its algorithm by watching Highlander movies nonstop.
The music, dialogue, and plot are also forgettable. They’re not awful, just very vanilla. The camera work, however, is straight up bad. Escape Plan 2 never met an action scene it didn’t want to render unwatchable with shaky-cam shenanigans.
All of this is brought into stark contrast with the first Escape Plan… because Escape Plan 1 is included for free on the Escape Plan 2 DVD! I watched these two films back to back, and the second film suffers tremendously for it. It feels like a tonal, verbal, and visual 180; I can’t see fans of the first film feeling good about the second one.
It’s time to wrap up my time in a prison of Sylvester Stallone’s making. How horrible was Escape Plan 2: Hades?
Is it Bad? Yes, but only in a ho-hum, disappointing way.
Is it Worth The Rent? If you’ve never seen the first Escape Plan, and you have trouble sleeping, then Escape Plan 2 might be worth your time. And by that I mean watch the first film and hope the warden calls lights out before the second film starts.