Escape Plan 2: Hades was directed by Steven C. Miller (Arsenal, Silent Night) written by Miles Chapman (Escape Plan, Escape Plan: The Extractors) , and stars Xiaoming Huang (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, The Guillotines), Jesse Metcalfe (Fortress, Dallas), Chen Tang (Rift, Mulan), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Creed), Wes Chatham (Tenet, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) , 50 Cent (Spy, Get Rich or Die Tryin’), Jaime King (Out of Death, My Bloody Valentine), Dave Bautista (Army of the Dead, Marauders), and Titus Welliver (Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, Argo). It’s about Ray’s protégé as he is locked up in a maximum-security prison as he survives and tries to escape, just like his boss did years ago.
The Plot: Plotting in Escape Plan 2:Hades is similar but different from the first Escape Plan in that the sequel does clearly retain the same basic setting but tries to focus its efforts on lightly engaging character drama and frequent brawls instead of the more straightforward finagling of the first. Shu (Huang), Luke (Metcalfe), and Jaspar (Chatham) meet with Ray (Stallone) who sends Shu on another job.
On the way he meets with his cousin, Yusheng (Tang), owner of a tech company that has been given offers of a buyout. Both of them are kidnapped and dumped into Hades, a new prison; supervised by the Zookeeper (Welliver) and controlled by an (underdeveloped) AI. Most of the runtime is spent with Shu and his thoughts until he runs into Jaspar. Ray and Luke get themselves inside as Abigail (King), Hush (50), and old friend Trent (Bautista) try to find the prison and get the guys out before they break.
The Characters: The characters in Escape Plan 2: Hades are very weak in an inversion from the first movie. Shu isn’t given much to work with aside from his abilities which are the same as Ray’s from the first movie, only less tactile, less creative. Aside from that, all that’s able to be garnered is that he’s a natural leader blessed with the ability to make people move the way he wants them to; although everything in the movie shows the opposite.
Yusheng only exists to create larger stakes and to suggest an attempt at greater human drama between him and Shu but ends up taking away screen time from Shu as the inkling of a dilemma is quickly feigned. Jaspar is the jealous sidekick whose arc is clear from his introduction, leaving little to the imagination. Ray becomes more of a mentor but doesn’t have the same opportunity for creative escape like before. Luke and Hush are essentially the same character, as is Trent to Ray; and Abigail is sidelined.
The Action: Action takes center stage in the second entry in the Escape Plan trilogy, and it’s for the worse. The first movie was more about a few guys using the strengths of their minds and the weaknesses of the facility to craft an escape, whereas Escape Plan 2: Hades is almost all brawn with only a few hints at the surprising techniques of the first.
Action does benefit with the starring roles going to Huang, who is a very talented martial artist, and Metcalfe who’s a solid brawler; so it becomes more of a shame that the fights in Escape Plan 2: Hades are so choppily edited, usually shaking, and given mostly mediocre choreography. Quantity seems to be the name of the game here, not quality. Chapman’s script paints Hades as an “In Hell” (2003) setting; with frequent fights that don’t make sense in context. Since this new prison serves the same purpose of keeping powerful people alive but kept away, the every-other-day fighting seems like a conflict of interest anyway.
The Technics: Mechanically Escape Plan 2: Hades is subpar but does try to hide its flaws. The writing is a lot less polished in the sequel than in the debut; with short glimpses of emotion, a less intimidating warden, undercooked sci-fi elements, faulty logic, worse characters, and most painfully: near zero creative escape plans. Production design is a highlight though, with most locations in Hades having a suitably low-fi look to them courtesy of minimalist set design, neon lighting, and a stark color palette. Sound design is also decent, with most of the hits during melee combat providing a visceral crackle to the proceedings to pick up where the editing drops the ball.
Unfortunately Escape Plan 2: Hades doesn’t recapture the thrills of the first. Despite some solid direction, acting, and a visually interesting setting; Hades sacrifices brains for poorly edited brawn and a shoddy script. It’s never hard to watch, but it’s far from clever.