With Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent, Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill. Written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller. Directed by Mikael Håfström. Rated R for violence and language throughout. 116 minutes.
Sylvester Stallone is 67. Arnold Schwarzenegger is 66. No one is suggesting they should be set adrift on an ice floe (although that might be an interesting premise for a future movie) but they are a little long-in-the-tooth to be action stars. Their recent solo films have fizzled as young movie fans seem to have had little interest in watching men their grandfathers’ age in shoot-‘em-ups. The exception has been “The Expendables” series, where bringing a bunch of aging action stars (some older than others) has met with some success.
ESCAPE PLAN is the first film to co-star Stallone and Schwarzenegger. It shows them both still ready for action (you wouldn’t want to mess with these guys regardless of age) and puts them in a cleverly plotted film with a solid supporting cast. The result is an action film that uses the star power of its two leads without making either one carry the film on the force of their personality.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a master at escaping from prison. A new prison has been constructed to handle the worst of the worst, particularly terrorists, and Breslin finds himself locked in, seemingly betrayed by the people who were supposed to be protecting him. Now the question is whether this high-tech facility is escape-proof or simply a new challenge for Breslin.
The warden (Jim Caviezel) makes it clear that he is not bound by any rules and that his inmates are there to die. His chief guard (Vinnie Jones) is the classic sadistic prison guard, who seems to enjoy his work too much. Breslin isn’t looking for allies but seems to have found one in a fellow prisoner named Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger). Can Rottmayer be trusted? And what about the troubled prison doctor (Sam Neill)? Will Breslin’s outside partners (50 Cent, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan) be able to help?
There are several plot twists along the way to keep the story interesting, as well as our learning the secrets of the prison as Breslin does. It’s a bit preposterous when you start to think about it, but these action movies were never intended as true-to-life dramas. At their best we suspend out disbelief and go along with the ride. At their worst we’re so distracted by the illogic that we don’t care about the action set pieces.
“Escape Plan” may have some plot loopholes or unbelievable coincidences, but they’re easy to gloss over while you’re watching. Stallone and Schwarzenegger work well with each other freed from the burden of constantly having to play to the audience with some signature moment. The closest it veers towards that is, late in the film, when Schwarzenegger takes on an army of guards with an appropriated machine gun.
At the end of the movie Schwarzenegger says to Stallone he hopes never to see him again. Don’t you count on it. This is the action version of those movies with ensemble casts of older British actors being adorably British together. If “Escape Plan” joins “The Expendables” in showing there’s interest in movies with more than one older action star, “Escape Plan 2” is not only inevitable. It will be the gateway to many more similar films to come.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.