Movies

Reviews: Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista in ‘Escape Plan: The Extractors’; and more

(L-R)- Sylvester Stallone and Dave Bautista in a scene from “Escape Plan: The Extractors.” Credit: B
Sylvester Stallone, left, and Dave Bautista in the movie “Escape Plan: The Extractors.”
(Brian Douglas / Lionsgate)

‘Escape Plan: The Extractors’

In 2013, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger co-starred in “Escape Plan,” a two-fisted prison picture that found a fervent fan base among ’80s action aficionados. Then Stallone squandered a lot of that goodwill by appearing — for a handful of scenes, anyway — in the tedious, Schwarzenegger-free sequel, “Escape Plan 2: Hades.”

Now, almost exactly one year after “Hades” debuted, the series resumes with “Escape Plan: The Extractors,” which — at the least — is more Stallone-centric. Not only is his security expert Ray Breslin in the picture from start to finish, but the story’s really all about Ray, and the villain out to bring him down.

Devon Sawa plays Lester Clark Jr., the son of the sleazy turncoat played by Vincent D’Onofrio in the first movie. Clark kidnaps a Hong Kong heiress to lure Breslin’s team to the dank, labyrinthine jail Devil’s Station; and then he grabs Ray’s girlfriend Abigail (Jaime King) too, making the mission personal.

Director John Herzfeld (also a credited co-screenwriter, with Miles Chapman) focuses most of his creative attention on his long, surprisingly gory climactic sequence, where Breslin and company punch, slash and shoot their way through Devil’s Station. Dave Bautista is especially entertaining as Breslin’s resident gunslinger.

But while this film is better than its predecessor, neither the prison nor the plot here is as cool as what “Escape Plan” had to offer. The original movie had a certain spark, while “The Extractors” is, ultimately, just another VOD actioner.

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‘Escape Plan: The Extractors’

Rated: R, for violence and language

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Available VOD

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‘Crown and Anchor’

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Michael Rowe, "Crown and Anchor"
(Uncork’d Entertainment)

Early in writer-director Andrew Rowe’s powerhouse debut feature, “Crown and Anchor,” Toronto cop James Downey (Michael Rowe) returns to his hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for his mother’s funeral. He’s dreading everything about the trip — including the inevitability of running into his estranged cousin Danny (Matt Wells). Both men have big anchor tattoos on their necks but otherwise couldn’t be more opposite.

Rowe’s grim drama is mostly about how these very different cousins were profoundly damaged by their abusive childhoods. Danny became a crook and a substance abuser; James now listens to screeching punk rock and exercises compulsively to channel his violent rage.

The plot primarily concerns Danny, who risks his family and his life as he sinks deeper into organized crime. James has to decide whether to help a relative who represents the selfishness he left St. John’s to escape.

“Crown and Anchor” is slow-paced and talky, with scenes that run long, in static takes. Rowe introduces a few eruptions of shocking violence, but he’s working more in the spirit of genre movies like “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” and “Dragged Across Concrete,” in which dialogue and character development are paramount.

Rowe’s not a great writer yet; he leans too far to the explanatory. But he elicits outstanding performances (including a one-scene wonder from Canadian character actor extraordinaire Stephen McHattie), and he knows how to spin a mood. This film is utterly absorbing, pulling viewers into a world that seems permanently overcast — as gray and discolored as a busted lip.

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‘Crown and Anchor’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes.

Playing: Available on VOD

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‘Cold Blood’

(L-R)- Jean Reno and Sarah Lind in a scene from “Cold Blood.” Credit: Ivashkina Olena/Screen Media
Jean Reno and Sarah Lind in the movie "Cold Blood."
(Ivashkina Olena / Screen Media)

As Henry, an aged but adept hitman living in the snowy wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, Jean Reno plays a very Jean Reno-like role in writer-director Frédéric Petitjean’s debut feature film, “Cold Blood.” When Henry finds a wounded woman named Charlie (Sarah Lind) and nurses her back to health, the pair gradually learn the secrets of their respective pasts — right as a detective (Joe Anderson) and another killer (David Gyasi) are closing in.

Picturesque locations (shot by veteran cinematographer Thierry Arbogast) bring some visual pop to this low-key, European-style suspense picture, which is otherwise fairly blah. The complicated relationship between Henry and Charlie is meant to be the core of this story, but they’re both relatively stoic, as are the flat, featureless supporting characters. “Cold Blood” is well-made but hard to warm to — although it might satisfy nostalgic Reno fans, eager to see him playing a silent, hulking assassin yet again.

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‘Cold Blood’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: Starts July 5, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; also on VOD

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‘Silent Panic’

(L-R)- Sean Nateghi, Joseph Martinez, and Jay Habre in a scene from “Silent Panic.” Credit: Indie Ri
Sean Nateghi, left, Joseph Martinez and Jay Habre in the movie "Silent Panic."
(Indie Rights)

Writer-director Kyle Schadt begins his movie “Silent Panic” with the kind of perplexing moral dilemma usually reserved for party games and brainteasers. Three friends — Bobby (Joseph Martinez), Dominic (Jay Habre) and Eagle (Sean Nateghi) — are returning from a camping trip when they find a dead woman in the trunk of Eagle’s car. None of them killed her. But they’re each other’s only alibis; and Eagle’s an ex-con. Should they call the cops?

Unfortunately, Schadt fumbles what should have been a can’t-miss premise. When the boys get home — after coming up with an iffy plan to avoid the police — they’re wracked with guilt. In a classic noir, this one bad break would expose all the cracks running through the characters’ lives. In a black comedy, they’d be spun through a series of surprising and ironic twists. In “Silent Panic,” these guys mostly just mope.

Schadt’s dialogue lacks punch, and his cast isn’t charismatic enough to compensate. But the bigger problem is that nothing especially tense or exciting happens after the corpse is found. What should’ve been a crackling thriller very quickly becomes just another middling indie drama about bland, angst-ridden young men.

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‘Silent Panic’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Playing: Starts July 5, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; also on VOD

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‘Cocaine Condor’

Michael Levine in a scene from “Cocaine Condor.” Credit: Indie Rights
Former DEA agent Michael Levine in the documentary "Cocaine Condor."
(Indie Rights)

The production values of Alan Bradley’s documentary “Cocaine Condor” are about at the level of a YouTube video. The sound’s inconsistent, the cuts are sometimes abrupt, and to illustrate his expose of the U.S. government’s involvement in ’70s and ’80s drug trafficking, Bradley relies on just a couple of original interviews and a lot of old news footage. At just over an hour, the movie’s not much longer than a typical online rant.

“Cocaine Condor” is still illuminating, however, because it burns with the passion of its director. Bradley appears on-screen throughout, telling this story of smuggling and assassination while staring intensely into the camera, with an engaging presence (and accent) halfway between Dennis Hopper and Joe Mantegna. Bradley weaves together pieces of disparate scandals into his own persuasive argument, rooted in what seems to be a deeply personal belief that powerful people have spent the past 50 years making our world more violent and miserable.

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‘Cocaine Condor’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 4 minutes

Playing: Starts July 5, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood

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