Escape Plan (2013) — Sly and Arnold together at last

“Last time they killed a guy in there, they let his body rot for three days. Oh, and they cancelled the prison dance.”

Justin’s rating: Sentence commuted to house arrest

Justin’s review: It’s always an attraction when major action stars team up to share the spotlight that typically hog all to themselves. I just think that it is a shame that it took far too long to put legends Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenneger together — think of how amazing it would’ve been if this sort of thing happened in the ’80s or ’90s! Instead, we get two beefy guys who are past their prime trying to hold on to their reputations.

I mean, Escape Plan is OK. It’s passable popcorn entertainment, but it weirdly doesn’t feel like the best of all possible vehicles for a Stallone/Schwarzenneger pairing. Honestly, you could have put any other two physcialy capable male actors into these roles and probably ended up with the same end product. Just, you know, different marketing potential.

Honestly, I showed up more for the concept than the stars. I’m a total sucker for a good prison escape movie, especially because Hollywood can’t resist constructing bizarre penitentiaries that would never work for so many reasons. Each is more inescapable than the last, which means that it only takes about 90 minutes for anyone to bust out of them.

Today’s prison break artist is Beslin (Stallone), a guy who literally wrote the book about prison security. Seriously: The movie shows us this book several times. His job is to get inserted into prisons and figure out ways that they are weak and then, for the sheer flashiness of it all, to bust out of them instead of quietly writing a report. But something goes horribly awry when he takes on a job to check out some sort of CIA black ops prison and ends up shut out from his support team and sentenced to stay there forever.

But at least there’s basket weaving at three and friendship circles at five. Breslin connects with Rottmayer (Schwarzenneger), and the pair of them start probing the prison’s defenses and figuring out how to live up to the title of this movie. Set against them is the steely warden, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who has read Breslin’s book and is taking all sorts of bribes to keep him there.

The prison in question — and this is a mild spoiler — is a converted cargo ship that is full of ridiculous design elements, such as elevated cages, that are supposed to look two-minutes-into-the-future. Me? I keep wondering where the prisoners are supposed to pee and poop, since there are no toilets in their cells. Also, all of the guards wear these goofy black masks that look like the most uncomfortable things in the world. I felt worse for them than I did for our heroes.

Stallone and Schwarzenneger do well enough, but they don’t seem to have quite the pep or personality that I was hoping to see. Like, they’re all stoic and growl out the right phrases, but there’s no character to it. The moments of humor or character development are quite sparse, and the phrase “going through the motions” has never seemed so real or possible. The only surprising moment came when Arnold pretended to be mental and started babbling in German for a while. Don’t think I’ve seen that before.

As I said, Escape Plan is a passable rental. It really would have been forgettable if it wasn’t for the star billing — and even that isn’t enough to keep it in the public consciousness.

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