No prison can hold Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone: Bullet to the Head). He’s literally written the book on prison security, breaking out of dozens of super max facilities to prove his point.
Yet he hesitates when a CIA operative asks him to test the security of a black site holding facility. They want him to go in blind. His team won’t know his location, and he’ll be out of touch with the outside world. It’s a risky deal, but the money is good, and he enjoys a challenge.
Ray has apparently never seen a movie, or he’d recognize this as a setup. As it is, this prison savant looks genuinely surprised when the plan goes pear-shaped and he finds himself a permanent fixture installed in a prison designed to his security requirements.
Brutal guards, constant observation and a sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel: Person of Interest) test his hope of finding a way out. He’s about to acquiesce to his fate when along comes another muscle-bound man of a certain age. Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Last Stand) is a long-term inmate desperate to get out before he’s broken by the warden.
With Ray’s brains and Rottmayer’s resourcefulness, they formulate a plot to burn the prison to the ground.
Stallone continues to prove you’re only as old as you feel as he pioneers the growing Geri-Action genre. He and Schwarzenegger flex their still-enormous biceps and scowl menacingly through their wrinkles. Think of these films as Viagra commercials with great big guns replacing the little blue pills.
In spite of its simplicity and its leading men, Escape Plan is an entertaining B movie. The plotting is intricate and the escape set pieces interesting. Director Mikael Håfström (The Rite) propels the plot without too many frills. The styling of the Black Site prison — with masked guards, glass cells and concrete boxes to create a sense of confinement even in large spaces — makes the film visually interesting.
The real surprises of Escape Plan, however, are the leading men. Stallone and Schwarzenegger, long known for cheesy one-liners and goofy emoting, keep their shticks to a minimum. Stallone makes for a convincing heavy, even if he’s not exactly a credible super-genius. As his comic relief, Schwarzenegger is carried by charm.
Unlike such contemporaries as Bruce Willis, these men don’t sleepwalk through their films. Schwarzenegger and Stallone bring energy and commitment to their scenes, whether they’re calculating the exact heat needed to fracture a steel bolt or battling each other with fists of steel.
Movies like this elicit cheers and applause from the audience, so go with friends.