Stallone and Schwarzenegger are back in cinemas in Escape Plan. Harry Guerin finds out whether you'll be doing hard time.
Time was back in the Eighties when the prospect of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a movie together would have caused worldwide fainting in boys aged 10 to 25 - and just imagine the schoolyard and snooker hall scraps about whose name should appear first in the credits.
Well, we're that bit more jaded now and given that S & S's recent pairing in The Expendables 2 wasn't exactly the end of action movie history, Escape Plan looks like it belongs to that genre which film theorists loftily call 'old codgers trading on past glories'. Or something.
But damn if the men with a combined age of 133 haven't delivered some quality jailhouse schlock! Back in the Eighties the shape-throwing and line-quoting re-enactments from Escape Plan would have gone on for months.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) has busted out of 17 maximum security facilities in the US and lives by the mantra that what man can make man can break. The powers that be think otherwise and Breslin's next stop is the 'The Tomb'. There the baddest of the bad 'live' in panopticon-style boxes, receive daily beatings from masked guards and haven't a clue where they actually are. Still, according to fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) they do a good meatloaf.
While Breslin disagrees with Rottmayer's tastes, he soon finds he has more in common with the goateed smartass than he thought. Before you can say 'squat down and give me two loud coughs' they're putting it up to the sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel) and his muscle and working on the holy trinity of any prison break: layout, routine and help inside or out.
Don't be expecting any Shawshank-style bromance here: Escape Plan is all about bone crunching not brotherhood with director Mikael Håfström showing he's a man that understands the emotional needs of his target audience - none. It's ridiculously far-fetched (like, why don't the screws just separate the two men from hanging around together at dinner and why does a fortress have one lock that looks like it's from the gate on a lawn tennis club?), but once you buy into it you'll do the time no bother - and think the meatloaf looks decent.
Like he showed in Lock Up, Stallone's good with the demands of the caged life (let's pretend D-Tox never happened) and here he finds a worthy attritional nemesis in Caviezel, a man who displays a hitherto unknown talent for despotic and doolally, with a white cat the only thing missing from his performance.
As for Schwarzenegger, if they hand out an honorary Oscar for show-stealing he's a shoo-in: he has all the best lines, looks fantastic and puts in his finest work since True Lies. There's one scene in particular that may result in standing ovations in every cinema. Don't be surprised if you well up while watching it and do make sure to see a doctor about all the RSI from the fist-bumping.
It would be a crime not to have a sequel after this tasty and tempting feud at Supermax. Yeah, yeah, we know - throw away the key.