Stallone was always a better actor than Schwarzenegger. That burning question, for those old enough to have asked it and deluded enough never to have figured it out, is answered once and for all in Escape Plan, a vintage prison escape movie in the classic Sly/Arnold mold.
They're both in it, both locked up and looking for a way out of a super prison. 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 a long, deranged rant, and he tracks down the biggest gun available.
A few one-liners and catchphrases — "You hit like a vegetarian!" — and there you have it, Sly or Arnold in their heyday, in a nutshell.
Stallone is Ray Breslin, who literally wrote the book on how security is compromised in maximum-security prisons. He co-owns a security company and is inserted into prisons so he can break out and teach the feds how to make their prisons more escape-proof.
His new challenge is a super-secure "secret" prison set up for the CIA and run by private contractors. It's for terrorists and their ilk, people who need to disappear. Ray goes in, but his team has their safeguards in place.
Only they're foiled. There's no tracking Ray, no telling where he's been taken and no way to explain who he is so he can get out.
In the cavernous prison, there's no sunlight. Cells are glass, the guards wear black storm trooper suits and sci-fi face masks. Solitary confinement is a cell with blinding high intensity lights. And the warden (whispering Jim Caviezel, pretty good) is a fastidious fussbudget who collects butterflies, constantly checks his suit and tie 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 in which Ray engages, only to figure out later what they mean to him. The action arc is predictable. But the standard prison-issue fights in the "yard" (indoors) or mess hall are handled well. The Islamic bad guy (Faran Tahir of Elysium) has dimensions even as the head sadist (Jones) doesn't.
The bonding scenes between Ray and the big, friendly Teutonic terror 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.
Villains are a tad too obvious, and you can see the finale coming for miles. 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 / Last Man Standing / Expendables pictures that brought these two aged action stars back from the dead.
R for violence and language throughout. Summit. 1:52. Fayette Mall, Georgetown, Hamburg, Movie Tavern, Nicholas ville, Richmond, Woodhill.