RATING: 3 stars (out of 4)
It’s not so much that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone don’t want to retire. It’s that they can’t. The younger generations have failed us, so the big action stars of today remain the same as they were 30 years ago. Instead of playing shuffleboard and writing angry letters to newspapers on typewriters, the 80s icons are still cracking skulls and barking catch phrases.
There’s nothing to complain about because both are so good at what they do, and Escape Plan is no exception.. Granted, they can’t do everything they used to do. When they run and fight, they resemble crotchety umpires ambling up to the pitcher’s mound to break up a conference. They do a lot more grunting than they used to, and none of it in sex scenes because the prospect of either man getting busy with either women their own age, or young hotties, is equally unappealing. They keep their shirts on, their guard up and expressions — with the aid of plastic surgery — frozen.
Stallone and Arnold play best buddies who are trying to escape an un-escapable prison together. Stallone is a paid escape artist who tests out prisons for the federal government and Schwarzenegger is a scrappy lifer who wheels, deals and steals his way to live the life of a prison prince. Both want to pull a Shawshank, and both know they need each other to get it done. Together, they are so adorable as BFFs, you expect them to split one of those BEST FRIENDS interlocking heart necklaces and follow each other on Instagram.
Conspiring against them is the cocky, evil warden played by Jim Caviezel. In the true fashion of an End Boss, the warden has his thugs do most of the dirty work, sending out his jackboot-stomping, creepy mask-wearing guards to snoop, sleep deprive and beat down the heroes.
A career of escaping from prisons, you learn throughout the movie, is a good reason to listen to your guidance counselor and try to get good enough grades not to have to go to Arizona State. In addition to the expected vent-crawling, contraband smuggling and tediously methodical recon work, there’s also tons of shiv-stabs, night stick cracks and, oddly, near drownings to endure. Not to absorb all the punishment himself, Stallone farms plenty of the work out to Arnold, who gets waterboarded, stuck making diversions that get him put in solitary and picking ill-advised fights with prison gangs.
The plot tries to pretend it has some twists going on in the background, but they are 80s style to go with the 80s actors, meaning they are so obvious your dog will be able to see them coming in five years when you’re watching the movie on TNT… while he’s licking himself and only paying partial attention to what’s going on.
But that’s okay because there’s nothing wrong with formula done right. You have your unsurprising third-act revelation, your ending shootout and, of course, a massive explosion punctuated by Arnold saying something that would sound terrible and lame if it were said by anyone other than Arnold. You can’t help but smile at things like that, unless you’re Jim Caviezel, in which you are — SPOILER ALERT — dead at the time. That’s how it was done in the 80s, an action flick era well into its fourth decade.
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, 50 Cent, Sam Neill and Amy Ryan. Written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, based on a story by Chapman. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom. Rated R. 116 minutes.