Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger co-headlining a film is a fantastic idea…if the calendar read 1993. In 2013 A.D., with each actor slowed a good bit, not exactly progressed as performers, and the former Terminator still shaking off the dust of his governorship, the prospect of these one-time action stalwarts becomes a tad less exciting. Yet here they are, acting tough and trading monosyllabic barbs in Escape Plan, a lame prison adventure that may not even have worked 20 years ago.
Stallone, increasingly walking like a wooden plank (whether or not he’s in shackles), stars as Ray Breslin, the world’s leading authority on prison security. Starting off behind bars with the guards (and, technically, viewers) unaware of his true identity, Breslin observes his penitentiary surroundings. During this stretch, one of the more confounding title introductions occurs, flashing “Escape Plan” on the screen at a random moment for a matter of seconds and disrupting what had been a decent opening flow. Busting out with the aid of associates Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), he’s returned to the warden (Graham Beckel) where, in the vein of a magician revealing his secrets, he explains his methods. When that magician is Stallone, however, the tell-all is stilted by his bored baritone and static face that likewise turns his numerous attempts at humor into a series of awkward events.
The very next day, Breslin’s security firm is visited by CIA agent Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe), requesting that he try his hand at a top-secret escape-proof facility, one so hush-hush that not even his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) is told of its location. Naturally, Breslin accepts (it wouldn’t be much of a story if he stayed in the office) and after witnessing some shady happenings on his transport, esoterically comes to the conclusion that he’s been set up. While the reasons for Breslin’s suspicions are sloppily shared and both the surveillance and protocols of this prison known as The Tomb are inconsistent, the place does inspire a wacky performance out of Jim Caviezel. As neat-freak Warden Hobbes, the former Jesus amusingly tries out his Peter Lorre and evil Kevin Spacey voices, which also sound a bit like Peter Sellers in Lolita. Though no great turn, at least Caviezel seems to be enjoying himself through the eerie vocal restraint, a quality that can’t be said of Stallone or his famous co-star.
A blast earlier this year in Kim Jee-Woon’s The Last Stand, Schwarzenegger suffers under Mikael Håfström’s camera as fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer, who instantly takes a liking to Breslin. No, he doesn’t turn chummy merely over the recognition of a kindred washed-up soul, though once the reasons behind his actions are at last amateurishly told, Escape Plan’s proverbial ship has long since sailed. Saturated with one-liners that don’t work and mishandling prime supporting talent like Ryan and Sam Neill’s prison doctor, it’s little wonder that the film’s highlight is Schwarzenegger’s sketch of a butt with an arrow pointed you-know-where. For audiences who choose to see this mess, the arrow is unfortunately turned in the opposite direction and aimed right at them.
Rated R for violence and language throughout.
Escape Plan is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.