ESCAPE PLAN: THE EXTRACTORS: More International Business Venture Than Movie

Some stars shine, but film fizzles

Having given Escape Plan 2: Hades a pretty gentle pass in my review, I find myself in the odd position of having to say that Escape Plan 3 isn’t a very good movie, but it’s substantially better than part 2… which hasn’t aged well in my memory.

It’s easy to see why the two films were shot back to back, as they’re both more of an investment exercise than a genuine film. I don’t say this as someone who’s unaware of the tropes of direct to video filmmaking. In fact, I’m a bit of a connoisseur of this type of cinema. The problem that often arises in this subgenre of lower budget direct to video films is when the motivation for making them feels more like an attempt to wring a few bucks out of an intellectual property that may have JUST a little life left in it. Sometimes you get an inspired filmmaker who attacks the project with something to prove and takes the limitations of the budget and wrings gold from it. Other times you get Escape Plan 2 and 3. Watching these movies is somewhat of an exercise in watching contractual negotiations play out on the small screen rather than watching a cohesive screenplay flow through three acts.

Here in The Extractors, Stallone’s Ray Breslin again plays somewhat of a supporting character in his own franchise. Most of the plot actually revolves around a dismissed security guard named Shen Lo (Max Zhang of Ip Man: Master Z fame) who seeks to redeem himself by rescuing his former charge and the love of his life, Chinese business mogul Daya (Melise). It just so happens that Daya has been kidnapped by the son of Breslin’s former business partner (Devon Sawa as Lester Clark, Jr), so therefore Ray and Shen’s heroic journeys are tied together in taking down the bad guy. Again, Breslin’s team shows up in the form of 50 Cent (given top billing on the cover with barely a few minutes of screen time), Jamie King (an unfortunately thankless role), and Dave Bautista (who gets to show up, kick ass, and walk away with nary a character trait in sight).

Max Zhang actually comes out of this film looking like the star that he proved himself to be in Master Z. And believe it or not longtime Stallone collaborator and director of this project John Herzfeld directs the martial arts sequences well, pulling back the camera and allowing Zhang to work his magic. There are a few standout moments that allow Zhang to make a more formidable leading man than the previous Breslin protege Asian character who was the lead in the second film. Devon Sawa also comes away from this film unscathed, absolutely making the most of a villain that should not have been very interesting. The movie ties in to the first one as Sawa’s character plays the son of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in the first movie. Sawa is quite brutal, and The Extractors does earn its R-rating. Bautista gets a couple of gun battles that are the highlight of the show (but also in the trailer), and fights his own real-life stunt double at one point as well. Stallone doesn’t appear to be phoning this movie in, per se, but he really doesn’t feel like the lead at all either. He gets to dish out some sweet revenge on the bad guy, so I guess that’s something.

Unfortunately, in the end Escape Plan: The Extractors feels more like a collection of decent action beats and a showcase for a few actors while simply being a paycheck for a few others. It’s competent enough in comparison to its predecessor, and will probably play well on the international (and Redbox) market as it was designed to do. But one does miss the theatrical grade thrills of the first film, which I actually found to be a blast. Only the barest of essentials really tie these sequels to that Stallone/Schwarzenegger team up film that had some real style and fun to it. Only Stallone and Bautista completists or huge fans of Asian action cinema need pay The Extractors any heed.

And I’m Out.

Escape Plan: The Extractors is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital on July 2nd from Lionsgate.

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