Escape Plan 2 (2018), directed by Steven C. Miller.
aka Escape Plan 2: Hades
Follows Escape Plan (2013)
Followed by Escape Plan 3 (2019)
Five years after the nostalgia trip that was Escape Plan – a dream team of 80s action muscle; specifically Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger – its sequel, imaginatively titled Escape Plan 2 in the UK (subtitled Hades in the US), replaces Schwarzenegger with former professional wrestler, Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049) and Xiaoming Huang (Ip Man 2).
After the breakout that occurred at “The Tomb”, Ray Breslin (Stallone) took full ownership of his security company (now renamed Breslin Security), and has moved away from testing the reliability of maximum security prisons. Instead, Breslin, his core team of technical experts – Hush (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and Abigail (Jaime King) – and his proteges, Shu Ren (Xiaoming Huang), Jasper Kimbral (Wes Chatham) and Luke Graves (Jesse Metcalfe), have begun running hostage rescue operations. Their latest extraction in Chechnya, however, resulted in the death of a prisoner after the team deviated from their mission objectives; specifically Kimbral (Wes Chatham), resulting in his firing from Breslin Security.
The following year, Shu is contacted by his family and asked to provide protection to his cousin, Yusheng Ma (Chen Tang), who is expected to announce what he considers to be groundbreaking satellite communications technology – telecommunications tech that rival companies would love to get their hands on. Travelling to Bangkok, Shu escorts Yusheng to a party, but shortly after their exit, find themselves confronted by a group of masked men. Yusheng, too inebriated to do anything, panics as Shu attempts to fight them off himself before being stunned with a military-grade taser.
Awakening to find themselves imprisoned, Shu and Yusheng are forced to fight other inmates for the amusement of the prison warden, Gregor Faust (Titus Welliver). Shu also encounters his old colleague Kimbral; a prisoner for several months in what he calls “Hades”. The warden, or “Zookeeper” as he is known within these high-tech walls, is after Yusheng’s communications patents, and in exchange will offer their freedom. Yusheng believes that with this technology the “Zookeeper” could hack into and control any nuclear launch system… Handing over this tech is not an option, thus Shu attempts to formulate an escape plan with the skills he has learnt from working with Breslin Security. Meanwhile, Breslin and his team are close to discovering the location of “Hades”, and have begun planning their own extraction with the help of an old friend, Trent DeRosa (Dave Bautista).
“Ya know, one of my men is missing and I think he’s in a black cell prison called Hades… ring a bell?”
Escape Plan 2 is a sequel that Stallone himself has called “beyond awful”, and yet I have to admit that I actually quite enjoyed watching it for the same reasons I enjoyed its predecessor: its excessive, over-the-top action; although this time there is a lot more martial artistry, courtesy of Xiaoming Huang. That sub-plot involving inmates pummelling each other in an Octagon-style free-for-all? Pointless. But it allows Xiaoming’s character, Shu Ren, screentime to show off his Wing Chun fighting style.
With Stallone taking the back seat in Escape Plan 2, Xiaoming is the true star here, but beyond some enjoyable fight sequences, Xiaoming comes across as unconvincing and uncharismatic. Escape Plan 2 is his first performance in the English language, and his first American feature film (if you exclude the Chinese-American comedy Hollywood Adventures), so with time I have no doubt that we will see Xiaoming receive the same critical acclaim in the west as he has received in the east.
Despite Xiaoming being given the most screentime, Escape Plan 2 was very much marketed upon the duo of Stallone and Bautista. Bautista is no stranger to the action genre, but watching him gun down countless bad guys whilst quipping one-liners was a frustrating experience. Not because it highlighted Schwarzenegger’s absence, but because Bautista is so underutilised in Escape Plan 2, resulting in nothing more than a wasted opportunity.
Despite his age, Stallone still remains convincing as an action hero; delievering the bone-crushing finale, and setting up Escape Plan 2 for another inevitable sequel with the final words:
“I gotta tell you something, I’m really getting sick of this shit! So whoevere you are, wherever you are, we’re gonna find you. For sure.”
With all that said, director Steven C. Miller has put in the work to deliver a sequel that, when combined with a few beers and a bowl of popcorn on a rainy day, is pure B movie bliss. And I’m certainly not getting sick of this shit!