You know not to expect something deep and meaningful when a movie stars Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and indeed this is pretty much what we expect: a slick thriller that's utterly preposterous but not quite stupid. But the premise has a certain idiotic charm to it, and there are just enough clever touches to keep our brains engaged.
Stallone plays brilliant security expert Breslin, whose job entails being thrown into maximum-security prisons so he can find the weakness in the system. Clearly unbothered by being beaten and brutalised by guards and inmates, Breslin is backed up by a support crew (Ryan and Jackson) and his business partner (D'Onofrio) back in the office. But now the CIA wants Breslin to check out its new top-secret enemy combatant lock-down. To do this, Breslin must go off the grid. And when he realises that the evil warden Hobbes (Caviezel) isn't playing ball, he teams up with brilliant scientist inmate Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to, yes, plan an escape.
As the story develops we get the feeling that the screenwriters sat around thinking of ways they could make this prison increasingly impossible to believe. Indeed, one mid-film twist is so incredible that it actually makes us admire the writers' audacity. Arthouse director Halstrom gleefully indulges in all of this silliness, keeping the imagery sharp and cool while name-checking pretty much every cliche of both prison and heist movies. There's even a bit of political context in the way a private contractor is abusing the system to profit from the War on Terror.
Of course Stallone (67) and Schwarzenegger (66) are far too old to be playing these roles, but their boyish enthusiasm and over-pumped physiques make them an enjoyable duo. They clearly enjoy sparring both verbally and physically, and their riotously inane scheming is a lot more fun than their big-gun Expendables machismo. Of the supporting cast, only Caviezel registers due to his relentless sliminess. So we know that he won't merely admit defeat in the end. You could probably write this in your sleep, but the big finale is so mindlessly overwrought that you might even crack a smile.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th October 2013
Box Office USA: $25.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $122.9M
Distributed by: Summit Entertainment
Production compaines: Atmosphere Entertainment MM, Summit Entertainment, Emmett/Furla Films, Mark Canton Productions, Envision Entertainment, Boies / Schiller Film Group
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 49 Rotten: 53
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Screenwriter: Miles Chapman, Arnell Jesko
Starring: Sylvester Stallone as Ray Breslin, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Emil Rottmayer, Jim Caviezel as Willard Hobbes, Vinnie Jones as Drake, 50 Cent as Hush, Vincent D'Onofrio as Lester Clark, Matt Gerald as Roag, Sam Neill as Dr. Kyrie, Christian Stokes as Babcock, Lydia Hull as Receptionist, Stephen Warren as Tourist, David Joseph Martinez as Captain Baradah, Caitriona Balfe as Jessica Miller, Amy Ryan as Abigail Ross, Faran Tahir as Javed, Steven Krueger as Gabriel, Jaylen Moore as Console Guard, James Rawlings as Babylon Guard
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