review – ‘escape plan: the extractors’

Escape Plan: The Extractors is the final installment of the Escape Plan trilogy. This third film of the franchise starts off in a bold attempt to fuse together a complex premise that involves multiple characters residing in various countries around the globe. With the use of ethnically distinguishable characters and superimposed title cards informing us of their geographical locations, we attempt to follow this ambitious story written by Miles Chapman – the creator of the first two installments Escape Plan (2013) and Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) – as he takes us around the world, jumping back and forth between different continents. The fact that Miles Chapman penned all three films helps maintain a level of consistency that’s vital to the fluidity of the storyline, since the trilogy has had three different directors behind the lens. But it’s the comradery of Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista that makes this third installment worthwhile, showing us on-screen what was occurring behind the camera with the production crew and the marketing team – an impressive display of teamwork.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment | Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films | 2019

Escape Plan (2013) was directed by Mikael Hafstrom and magnificently paired the dynamic duo of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger together on-screen in a way we’ve never seen before. This novelty resulted in a global box office gross of $137 million on a $50 million budget. Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) was directed by Steven C. Miller (Marauders, Extraction) and brought in action heavyweight Dave Bautista in a supporting role alongside Stallone, but the film performed poorly and Sylvester Stallone criticized the production of the sequel on social media, “Truly the most horribly produced film I’ve ever had the misfortune of being in.” Stallone said, as he was promoting the third installment, The Extractors, directed by the veteran John Herzfeld (15 Minutes), who also played one of the villains in the cult-classic, Cobra (1986). “What I think is amazing and what people should know is this film was made in 17 days.” Stallone said referring to Escape Plan: The Extractors, in another social media post, suggesting what can be accomplished when you have a team that pulls together and works toward a unified objective. Escape Plan: The Extractors definitely lacks the spark that ignited the trilogies first installment with Schwarzenegger, but it makes up for it with some impressive action sequences that belong in Robert Clouse’s Enter the Dragon (1972) with Bruce Lee, in addition to a meaningful rescue drama that involves multiple characters with different overall objectives.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment | Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films | 2019

After security expert Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is appointed to rescue the abducted daughter Daya Zhang (Melise) of Hong Kong tech mogul Wu Zhang (Russell Wong) from a daunting prison in the eastern European country of Latvia, he partners up with his team in Trent DeRosa (Dave Bautista) and Hush (50 Cent) with the addition of Shen Lo (Jin Max Zhang) who is a former bodyguard of Wu Zhang that has a love interest with his daughter, as well as Bao Yung (Harry Shum, Jr.) who is Zhang’s current head of security. The film opens in Mansfield, Ohio with eye-opening establishing shots signifying the degree of American patriotism that exists in the Buckeye State. Accompanied by a melodic score, we’re taken into an abandoned commercial building where Daya shops for real estate property on behalf of the boss of ‘Zhang Innovations’ – her father Wu Zhang. “China is coming to Mansfield.” Daya says to the real estate agent, only to have Bao Yung disagreeing with her choice, but forced to agree considering her granted power.

After heading to the airport to depart back to China, a showdown ensues where Bao Yung displays some intensely choreographed martial arts action that’s straight out of a Kung Fu movie. After disposing of several henchman who are there to seize control of Daya, Bao is stopped by Silva – a role performed by Daniel Bernhardt, who portrayed the martial arts hero in Bloodsport 2 (1995), Bloodsport III (1996) and Bloodsport: Dark Kumite(1999). Silva kidnaps Daya and leaves Bao unconscious, placing a flash drive in his sport coat pocket with Ray Breslin’s name written on it as a surprise when he wakes up.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment | Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films | 2019

The story travels to Hong Kong, where we meet Wu Zhang, who gives Bao an ultimatum. Then the film travels all the way westward to Los Angeles, where Breslin walks on a rooftop with the intimidating skyscrapers of the Los Angeles skyline protruding the air in the background. The story doesn’t flow very well in the beginning of this film; it jumps all over the place attempting to amalgamate different storylines. As we attempt to follow the convolution, Shen Lo appears in the lobby of a downtown building, asking to speak with Mr. Chow – alias for Breslin. At this point, were fed arguably the most impressive action sequence in this film as Shen Lo is ambushed by a crew of security guards entrapping him as he sits down in the lobby while wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase and an umbrella. What lacks in storytelling is quickly, once again, made up for by a remarkable action sequence between Shen Lo and a crew of highly trained killers, until he’s stopped by Breslin himself and held at gunpoint, where Breslin makes the request to see what’s on the supposed disc Shen Lo is in possession of.

The Extractors literally jumps all over the map. The next stop, Estonia. Breslin is calling DeRosa with a proposal. In a quick exchange of dialogue, DeRosa’s onboard to infiltrate ‘The Devil’s Station’ – a notorious prison maze 200 miles outside of Belarus in Latvia, which is where Daya is being held captive by the film’s arch villain Lester Clark Jr. (Devon Sawa) who’s out for a personal vendetta against Breslin while falsely accusing him of pushing his father out of the prison building business and murdering him. Breslin too, has skin in the game like Shen Lo – Breslin’s girlfriend Abigail (Jaime King) is also being held captive in the infamous prison maze. Lester Clark wants $700 million from Wu Zhang at ransom or else both his daughter Daya and Breslin’s girlfriend Abigail will be executed. Let the extractions begin.

The Extractors has photographic qualities in its cinematography with formulated framework and phenomenal martial arts choreography showcased in multiple faceoffs upon the film’s climax. The screenplay and dialogue doesn’t efficiently keep the story flowing in the first act, but once all the vendetta and vengeance is revealed, it makes for an engaging action picture where we truly root for not just Breslin, but Shen Lo as well. Even though this film stars Stallone and Bautista as its marketed headliners, we barely see them portray their characters on screen in the first act, where all the action credit specifically goes to Harry Shum Jr. and Max Zhang, in addition to ample screen time afforded to Devon Sawa. Nonetheless, all the fanatics of Bautista and Stallone alike should watch this film just to enjoy their company, because they will satisfy you with a huge payoff in their individual fighting showdowns upon the film’s climax in raw and realistic manners. Even though this film starts of with a slow pace while jumping all over the globe, the story line becomes intriguing once we realize what every character is fighting for. One can’t help but think that this film attempts to be larger than it’s capable of being, but taking into account the fact that it was shot in less than 3 weeks on a low budget, one can only conclude with a round of applause considering what they were able to pull-off – an exciting international film containing depth. The chemistry between Dave Bautista and Sylvester Stallone is one of genuine comradery and respect. Director John Herzfeld literally created a world where its only heroes are Bautista and Stallone, and the admiration of Bautista for Stallone and his respect in return is ever present on-screen, resulting in a warm feeling of being in good company. If only they shared more screen time together, this film could have been more enjoyable. But perhaps, less is more, as they’ve given the fans of the action genre another piece to add to their memorable collection.

Escape Plan: The Extractors is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

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