Ray Breslin, the hero in the action thriller Escape Plan, might be able to successfully escape from any prison in the world, but he can’t free himself from the confinement of a far-fetched screenplay.
Then again, believability isn’t exactly the intent of this film that’s more concerned with coasting on the chemistry between legendary stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have more than 60 years of collective action-hero experience between them.
Stallone plays Breslin, a government contractor whose job entails going undercover to discover the security risks in prisons by escaping from them. He knows all the secrets, tricks and potential pitfalls.
Those skills lead to his most dangerous assignment, at a remote maximum-security prison known as The Tomb that is both high-tech and top-secret. After his arrival, he suspects that he’s been falsely imprisoned by a corrupt warden (Jim Caviezel) who is intent on not allowing his escape.
That leads to Breslin partnering with a fellow inmate (Schwarzenegger) with mysterious motives in order to help him expose the truth — through a series of double-crosses and secret identities — with his most challenging escape yet.
The charismatic stars help to elevate the mundane material, especially Schwarzenegger, who refuses to take this mess seriously. At a combined age of 133, they still can handle the physical demands of climbing, fighting and other stunts while delivering lively banter.
However, rookie screenwriter Miles Chapman fails to take his potentially intriguing concept beyond the standard shootouts, explosions and macho posturing. These aren’t interesting characters, just tough guys, and we’re supposed to root for them because they’re less slimy than the real villains.
Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom (The Rite) stages some slick and stylish action sequences, and keeps the pacing generally taut, but mostly stays out of the way.
Fans might not mind that the idea of pairing Stallone and Schwarzenegger for the first time had more potential than is fulfilled here. For what it’s worth, the supporting cast includes capable players such as Amy Ryan, Sam Neill and Vincent D’Onofrio.
More than anything, Escape Plan is an instructional video on how to break out of prison, as long as you have a Hollywood icon in the cell next door.
Rated R, 116 minutes.