Sunday, February 9, 2014
This isn't a movie I'd recommend to most people, since while it has a clever story, fun acting performances, nice set pieces, decent direction, and great production design, at the end of the day it exists -- and even succeeds -- for one reason alone: Nostalgia for the two stars. If you have never seen a film starring either Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or, even worse, you have seen one and didn't enjoy it, this movie isn't for you. HOWEVER, if you are a fan of either actor, or, even better, of both of them, I'm happy to report that this movie is a lot of fun. I liked it. I'd even say it's good.
Stallone and Schwarzenegger need no introduction, but I'll give them one anyway by saying they are the two greatest and most popular action stars in the history of motion pictures. Maybe Errol Flynn is also on that list, or Douglas Fairbanks (both of them), Bruce Willis, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, Jackie Chan... you know what, I need to make this list someday soon, but needless to say, I'd put Sly and Arnold at the top... and forgetting about the two Expendables films that each had little more than cameo appearances by Arnold, Escape Plan is the real deal: A buddy action movie starring both men. The only real problem with this movie is that they aren't cops, preferably one who's by the book while the other is something of a loose cannon. Then again, they're both nearly 70 years old, so the idea of them playing people with actual jobs they didn't retire from is silly. Also, the concept of having them as convicts in a maximum security prison is kind of fun because Sly played one in Lock Up while Arnold did something similar in the Running Man, although as something of a self-proclaimed expert on both films (and anybody who knows me won't question my expertise on the films of these two men), if there were any inside jokes or references to either of these movies, they went over my head, much to my disappointment.
Anyway, here's the story: Sly plays a security expert who is secretly sent to prisons to test their facilitates by attempting to break out, but when he is sent to test a secret government prison for the world's most political prisoners, he realizes that he was betrayed and sent their for real, so he has to use all his skills to break out once more. Or something. Anyway, Stallone and Arnold plan a prison break, and it's a lot of fun to watch and the plan they hatch is very clever, even though the entire concept is ridiculous and everything that happens is impossible to believe. In other worlds, it's a perfect throw-back to an 80s action movie. And let's be clear: This is an 80s action movie. I don't mean that it was an homage to movies that were made in the 80s, but that its stars are both in their 80s.
Stallone is really the star of the film, since he is the main character who gets to do the most stuff and has the greater screen time, but that's balanced out by the fact that Arnold completely steals the movie because he's just better, or at least he seems to be having more fun. Stallone is the better actor by far (and my favorite actor, along with Jimmy Stewart, Orson Welles, and William Holden, all of whom are on my short list of those whose work I'll see just because they are in it, no matter what), but he kind of phoned it in a little here while Arnold really went for it, and probably gave the best performance of his career. Seriously, Arnold was great in this film, and actually gave a really good, really effecting and effective acting performance.
We also had nice acting performances from an oddly diverse supporting cast that includes 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, Sam Neil, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Jim Caviezel. Caviezel was particularly good as the evil warden of the prison, but close your eyes whenever he comes on screen and prove me wrong that he was just doing a Christopher Walken impression. I'm telling ya, he was doing Chris Walken, and it was hilarious.
Anyway, I don't have much else to say about Escape Plan, other than that it was a joy to watch as a fan of Stallone and Arnold, although I probably wouldn't rank it amongst the best by either of the two. I also wouldn't rank it amongst their worst, and I recommend it for fans who finally want to watch these two guys on screen together. It's not the best movie ever made, but the talents and charms of both men is undeniable, and while their on screen chemistry isn't exactly electric, it's still pretty great and elevates the film beyond a simple action flick into something memorable and worth checking out.