by Brad Nelson 3/13/14
This is a decent testosterone-flick for the first three-fifths of it. There is an actual plot that builds, makes sense, and holds dramatic interest. There are real characters (more or less…this is Schwarzenegger and Stallone we’re talking about).
But then it stops being smart. Lots of stuff happens in the latter parts of the film that make little sense. I had to stop the movie several times just to sort things out with my brother (who was watching it with me). It was usually a matter of, “How could have known that was going to happen?” Or something such as that. A movie that was in the beginning coherent lost much of that in the last two-fifths.
The gist of the movie is that Sylvester Stallone plays a specialist at breaking out of prisons. Much like hackers who are often pressed into service to uncover security issues with corporate computer systems, Stallone has made it his profession to find weaknesses in prisons. He routinely has himself tossed into various prisons (with no one but the warden knowing he’s not a con) and tries to escape. He’s even written a “How To” book on the subject of prison security. And by being incognito when on the job, he faces all the regular hazards of actual prison life including the burly guards who don’t know to take it easy on him.
The film starts off with Stallone on the job in just such a situation. After the successful conclusion of this job, some big-wigs offer him a multi-million-dollar contract (way more than his usual asking price) if he will try to crack the latest maximum-security prison that has been built to hold the worse of the worst…a prison that is already in use and full of hardcore scum from all corners of the globe.
Okay, so far, so good. Things eventually go not quite as expected (as you would expect). There is a bit of skullduggery and double-cross involved. I won’t spoil the plot for you with too many details. But Stallone eventually finds himself in this ultra-maximum-security prison facing an even tougher circumstance than usual. And there he finds Schwarzenegger already there as an inmate. And circumstances conspire in which they need to help each other break out of this unbreakable prison.
Sam Neill plays the sympathetic prison doctor. Too bad his role is peripheral and not central. Jim Caviezel scowls his way through the role of warden of this new escape-proof prison. I’m not a big Jim Caviezel plan. And the reason why is that I’ve seen plastic give a more evocative performance. But he can give you a steely stare. And if giving steely stares is where it’s at, Caviezel has that going for him. (I kept envisioning Harvey Keitel in the role. This movie needed an insertion of a little personality and character.)
Oh, and along the way — surprise! — you meet the “good Muslim.” Again, I won’t give away any crucial plot details. But this PC aspect is a bit obnoxious, although the other side of this coin is the movie does portray an awful lot of Muslims in this “worst of the worst” prison.
Amy Ryan plays one of Stallone’s business partners and, by Caviezel standards, she is quite good. Which is to say, you wished they would have cast someone who could have brought a little life to the character, although her role is small and fairly insignificant.
That really says it all about this movie. There is a general framework there of a movie that is quite decent enough. But plot and logic points in the end degrade it to just another mindless Stallone/Schwarzenegger action flick…at least the kind that is typical now in their later years.
They needed to pump a little life (if not logic) into this movie. It’s even bereft of the usual Schwarzeneggarian lines such as “I’ll be back.” I had to literally insert them myself while watching this. So if you like to “play at home,” there’s always that. I had a few funny ones, if I do say so myself.
Stallone has little to offer as well in terms of “catch lines.” But he does do a reasonable job of acting. This is much more of a Stallone movie than a buddy-buddy movie. Arnold is definitely the junior partner and sleep-walks through much of this movie, even by Arnold’s standards.
And you’d expect more futuristic hi-tech wizardry from the world’s most escape-proof prison. But the they don’t even bother to use any kind of existing snooping technology to listen in on conversations prisoners are having with each other in the common area as they plot escapes and other stuff from just a few yards away. As I said, much of this movie makes little sense. Thinking is definitely optional. And aside from the generally blah actors, there isn’t much drama regarding being in the world’s most escape-proof prison with the worst of the worst. You get a few predictable fist fights, and that’s about it. Consider the dark and foreboding atmosphere created in Escape from New York. Anything like that is missing in this one.
But I will say that the movie had me mostly on its side until it finally just collapsed under the weight of its un-imagination. Again, I’m sure they paid these two major stars millions to appear in this movie. But they couldn’t spare an extra hundred dollars for a decent screenwriter? Still, if you can find a friend who likes watching these kinds of movies — both for their own merit and just to make a little fun of them — then you could find worse ways to kill a rainy evening.
I’ll be back. With another movie review, eventually. But that’s all I want to say about this one. • (2402 views)