4K UltraHD Review: Escape Plan (2013)

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It has been five years since Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up for their first true co-starring experience with Escape Plan. Sure, these action heroes briefly appeared together in The Expendables and, a bit more substantially, in its 2012 sequel. But Escape Plan, directed by Mikael Håfström, put the musclebound duo on nearly equal footing (it's still, in the end, a Stallone film). The results were a bit underwhelming, and a bit late (imagine the box office potential had they faced off in the '80s or '90s). But helped along by a surprisingly strong supporting cast—including Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Amy Ryan, and Vincent D'Onofrio—the action flick provided some easy pleasures.

Five years later, Stallone is returning as career prison-breaker Ray Breslin in Escape Plan 2: Hades. Due at the end of June 2018, it marks a somewhat depressing return to direct-to-video for Stallone, who hasn't been in that territory since launching his big screen comeback with Rocky Balboa in 2006. And Schwarzenegger is nowhere in sight; Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) is Sly's above-the-title costar. If all that weren't enough, Escape Plan 3: Devil's Station is in production with Stallone and Bautista reprising their roles once again. Who would've thought back in 2013 that what seemed like a one-off excuse to put two action titans together would actually be the starting point for a trilogy?

The timing of the release of Escape Plan on 4K UltraHD is not coincidental. Lionsgate has wisely chosen to showcase the original in a spiffy new 4K presentation just weeks before their release of Hades. And the good news for fans is that the upgrade looks fantastic. Escape Plan isn't the most colorful production—it's prison setting is steeped in neutral grays and other somewhat dull hues. But the state-of-the-act glass cells of "The Tomb" that encase Breslin and his unlikely ally Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) glisten and sparkle in a way that isn't perceptible on the original Blu-ray release.

And the powerful audio is offered up in a new Dolby Atmos mix that pulverizes even the still-excellent DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix that graced the original Blu-ray. It's becoming harder and harder to be impressed by surround mixes these days since, let's face it: they're usually pretty awesome on studio-produced, modern action movies in the HD era. But the sound design is truly remarkable here, especially during the big escape scene that climaxes the film. Escape Plan on UltraHD is definitely one to crank up.

The extra features are ported over from the original Blu-ray, nothing new to see or hear if you already have that earlier release in your collection. This includes an insightful commentary track by director Håfström and screenwriter Miles Chapman. It's Chapman who makes things interesting, outlining the vast changes made from his original screenplay. Interestingly, Chapman has returned to writing duties for both of the upcoming sequels. There are also three featurettes (totaling nearly an hour!) and a selection of deleted scenes.

Big-time fans of Stallone and/or Schwarzenegger likely already own Escape Plan and have watched and re-watched it many times. If you're ready for a new experience with an older movie, check out this 4K UltraHD edition in order to be fully prepared for Escape Plan 2: Hades.
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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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