Stallone was always a better actor than Schwarzenegger. That burning question, for those old enough to have asked it and deluded enough to have never figured it out, is answered once and for all in Escape Plan, a vintage prison-escape movie in the classic Sly and/or Arnold mould.
They're both in it, both locked up and both looking for a way out of a super prison with all the escape-proof conveniences that private enterprise can cook up. The old pros hit their marks, and each other. They spill some blood and have theirs spilled.
Sly takes a few beatings and hunts for that one epic brawl with a bad guy, a guard played by Vinnie Jones. Ah-nuld finally speaks German in a Hollywood film in long, deranged rant, and tracks down the biggest gun available.
A few one-liners and catch-phrases -- "You hit like a vegetarian!" -- and there you have it, Sly or Arnold in their heyday, in a nutshell.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin. He literally wrote the book on compromises in maximum-security prisons, and co-owns a security company. He's inserted into prisons which he then breaks out of so he can teach the feds how to make them more escape-proof.
His new challenge is a super-secure "secret" prison set up for the C.I.A. and run by private contractors. It's a place for terrorists and their ilk, people who need to disappear. Ray goes in, but his team (Amy Ryan and the rapper 50 Cent) have their safeguards in place.
Only Ray is double-crossed and trapped. There's no tracking him, no telling where he's being held and no way of explaining who he is so he can get out.
In the cavernous new prison, there's no sunlight. The cells are all glass and the guards wear black storm trooper suits and face masks. Solitary confinement is a cell with blinding high-intensity lights. The warden (whispering Jim Caviezel, pretty good) is a fastidious fussbudget who collects butterflies, constantly checks his suit and has just a hint of sadism about him.
Director Mikael Hafstrom (1408, Derailed) is at his best studying his stars and their surroundings in extreme close-ups. We catch the details Ray does, only to figure out later what those details mean to him. The action arc here is predictable, but the standard prison-issue fights in the "yard" (indoors) or mess hall are handled well.
The bonding scenes between Ray and the big, friendly Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) are clumsily written but have their amusing moments. The heroes have great hair and makeup and the escape plans have a pleasant dose of MacGyver about them.
The villains are a tad too obvious and you can see the finale coming from miles off.
So yeah, it's undemanding, but the tempered violence, the nature of the villains, the easy bonhomie of our leads and a cast peppered with great supporting players make Escape Plan go down easier than the other Rambo/The Last Stand/Expendables pictures that brought these two aged action stars back from the dead.
-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service