Craig's First Take: "Escape Plan"

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When a structural-security authority finds himself incarcerated in a prison he designed, he has to put his skills to escape and find out who framed him.
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Maybe I should start this thing off with a disclaimer. It seems people aren’t so interested in Schwarzenegger and Stallone anymore. Both bombed last January with “Last Stand” and “Bullet to the Head. Yes they look a little slower and long in the tooth now but watch the movies, or better yet watch the “Expendables”, and you’ll see two guys still as sharp as ever. “Escape Plan” returns them to “team-up” territory, a trend they make you hope continues.

Stallone is Ray Breslin, known as a Houdini who tests prisons to make sure they’re escape-proof, and he doesn’t even have to crawl through six football fields worth of sewage in order to do it, ala “Shawshank.”

The CIA has a job for him- test a Guantanamo-like fortress that houses the most ruthless prisoners the U.S.A doesn’t even want anymore. Before he knows it he’s been drugged, placed in one of those thick-glass cubes like the one the X-Men use to keep Magneto at bay, and at the mercy of sadistic Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his team of black mask-wearing, club-carrying guards.

It doesn’t take long to realize things are not what they seem, or that Hobbes has based his prison solely around the teachings of Breslin’s book, making it relatively escape-proof. Of course the title promises an escape though, something Breslin will need fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to help him pull off.

Neither actor has ever been known for great line readings and here the dialogue feels as stiff as can be, but their presence and charisma still looms large in every scene as they plot, divert attention of the warden and his guards while one does recon work, or contend with the warden's brutal punishments. All the time they add the wink-wink humor both are so good at. This all leads up to a finale of fist-fights, big guns, explosions, helicopters, and one-liners and really no one does all this better than them. Director Mikael Hafstrom’s film suffers every now and then from a lagging pace, but he knows who to shoot.

Also lending fine support is a viciously cold Jim Caviezel, and Vinnie Jones as the Warden’s equally crazed henchman. Performing way below their talents though are Vincent D’Onofrio and Amy Ryan as two of Ray’s co-horts. But seeing either one make another great big screen performance will have to wait a little longer. This is all about Stallone and Schwarzenegger, two action heroes you can seemingly count on at any age.