October 20, 2013 -- Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunite for this prison break caper film about a mysterious prisoner (Schwarzenegger) and a man who breaks out of prisons for a living (Stallone). This is a standard by-the-numbers action genre film. It isn't art, but it works as an entertaining action film.
Stallone and Schwarzenegger are two of the unlikeliest movie stars in the business. They have each had to overcome obstacles that would have stopped most people. It is remarkable the success they have each enjoyed. The fact that Schwarzenegger was also governor of California is even more amazing. Here they are, old enough to be on Medicare (Stallone is 67, Schwarzenegger, 66) and they are still going strong, not as strong as they were, but still making action films.
Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a guy who is in the business of breaking out of prisons. The film opens with him in prison, working on his escape plan. He escapes and makes his report to the prison authorities, letting them know about flaws in their security systems. He is later approached by a mysterious woman, Jessica Miller (Caitriona Balfe) who offers him a high-paying job to test the security of a new high-tech prison. He is intrigued by the challenge and accepts, but he regrets his decision very soon after that.
Breslin finds himself trapped in a maximum security prison under heavy guard. There seems to be no way out. He immediately tries to back out of the deal by using a standard escape clause in his contract, but for some reason the authorities refuse to release him, or even acknowledge who he really is. He has been betrayed and abandoned. He is savagely beaten by guards, as are other prisoners. He makes friends with a mysterious fellow prisoner named Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger). They agree to help each other escape. Eventually, they also enlist the aid of another prisoner, Javed (Faran Tahir of “Iron Man”) and others as well.
The bulk of the movie is about Breslin and Rottmayer and their brutal treatment by an inhumane warden with a hidden agenda, Hobbes (Jim Caviezel of “Deja Vu”) and a sadistic guard (Vinnie Jones of “X-Men: The Last Stand”). Obviously, these guys will escape and will get their revenge on their captors, but how? There are some surprises in the film, but not many. This is more about the fun of watching these two experienced action stars work these roles, and this plot, to perfection. This movie reminded me a bit of the TV show “Prison Break.”
I think the final payoff of the film isn't quite what it should be, but there are some big explosions, lots of bullets and blood. I would have liked to see something grander, like the ending of “V for Vendetta,” or “Fight Club,” for instance. The whole scale of this film is modest, aside from the prison set itself, indicating a fairly limited budget. In this film the faceless corporate overlords behind this obscenity of a prison do not get their comeuppance. You do get an iconic shot of Schwarzenegger shooting bad guys with a big-ass machine gun. It is also nice to see a sympathetic portrayal of a Muslim character for a change. This film rates a C+.
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