Presumably put in production during that brief period between the time in which the surprise success of the "Expendables" films suggested that there was a newly resurgent audience for the aging icons of Eighties-era action cinema and the weak performances of "The Last Stand," "A Good Day to Die Hard" and "Bullet to the Head" (undeserved in the latter case) indicated that interest in such things was already on the wane, "Escape Plan" unites Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger for a project that is arguably among the silliest that either one has ever participated in and yes, I realize that is saying a lot.Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a guy who makes a lucrative living getting himself placed inside of maximum security prisons so that he can discover the flaws in the system and use them to pull off seemingly escapes. (Don't be too impressed since the escape that our would-be Houdini engineers during the opening relies on such elements as an accomplice blowing up a car right outside the prison, guards so lackadaisical that they would hardly pass muster frisking audience members at a screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and a couple of key points they don't even bother to explain.) For his latest assignment, he agrees to be put inside a super high-tech facility put together by a Blackwater-like group but things quickly go sideways when all of his security protocols get trashed and he finds himself at the mercy of a sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel) who is being paid lots of money to keep him on ice forever. In an attempt to do the job that he was theoretically supposed to do before everything went gunny, Ray teams up with the suspiciously friendly terrorist Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) to find the weak points of the prison and bust out for good.
Listlessly directed by Mikael Hafstrom, the filmmaker best known for being part of the question "What else has Mikael Hafstrom directed?", "Escape Plan" wants to be a straightforward meat-and-potatoes action extravaganza but is more like the cinematic equivalent of a Steak-umm sammich garnished with a few generic chips. The screenplay is one of those ungodly contraptions that somehow manages to be both insultingly simple-minded and virtually impossible to decipher and runs on way too long for its own good thanks to a long-winded middle section (including a speech in which Breslin explains his motivations for doing what he does that even Stallone seems mortified at delivering)--what might have been an amiable time-passer at 85 minutes is nearly unbearable at almost two hours.Perhaps due to the age of its two stars, the action is limited to lots of basic fistfights until the guns-a-blazing final act and grows pretty repetitive after a while. (That said, fans of "Arrested Development" can amuse themselves by calling out "No Touching" any time a fight breaks out.) Beyond that, Stallone can barely disguise his take-the-money-and-run attitude towards his work here--even the thematically similar and equally risible "Lock-Up" showed a greater sense of commitment than he displays here--while Schwarzenegger, surprisingly, actually throws himself into the material with more zest than he has displayed in a long time, even going so far as to bust out some German in the most entertaining moment on display. At least he is clearly having some fun with "Escape Plan," which is more than you can say for anyone else who encounters it.