By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger once again team up in an action/thriller that attempts to recapture cheesy 80s action gold. The film comes close, but does come up a bit short. A fun and exciting climax will please 80s action fans; however, the journey there often meanders. Stallone’s dull and uninteresting performance fails to invigorate what could have been a really cool character. Thankfully, Schwarzenegger’s gleeful portrayal of his character indicates that he’s eager and thrilled to be back on the big screen.
Stallone “portrays” Ray Breslin, an expert hired to test the security of modern prisons, receives an assignment to test the integrity of a top secret, maximum security prison supposedly used by the C.I.A. After the assignment begins, it soon becomes apparent that the job is actually a setup meant to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life. Breslin soon befriends an inmate named Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), a “go-to” inmate who offers Breslin assistance with his attempts to escape. Not knowing their exact location and the inhumane treatment by Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel) and his chief officer Drake (Vinnie Jones) make this prison escape the most challenging one of Breslin’s career.
The screenplay by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller often features laughable elements of both the intentional and unintentional varieties which does succeed in providing some entertainment. However, some of the silly dialogue is groan-inducing as is some of the scenarios. The prison scenes drag a bit and it doesn’t help at all that Sylvester Stallone phones in his performance.
In a performance that is supposed to convey brilliant analytical thinking, Stallone appears annoyed, tired and disinterested. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, appears to be having fun as the charming, talkative and witty Rottmayer. Chapman and Keller obviously knew of the importance of giving Arnold entertaining lines. He delivers them with as much zeal and gusto as he did during his 80s action heyday. In the villains department, Jim Caviezel offers an intense, but restrained performance as the “evil” Warden Hobbs. This role could have easily been handled in a more cartoonish and over-the-top manner, but Caviezel comes across as a genuinely cold blooded and vicious warden who loves his job.
The casting department did make some highly talented and inspired choices with the remainder of the cast which includes Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan, and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson. Still, these gifted cast members never really get to show their capabilities. I was particularly disappointed that I didn’t get see more scenes with D’Onofrio who does have some comedic scenes, but definitely not enough of these. Amy Ryan also happens to be another acting talent known for her presence and intensity, but her appearance here honestly could have been easily played by just about any other pretty face.
Director Mikael Håfström doesn’t present his story in an interesting manner either. After showing some veritable style in his films 1408 and The Rite, this film’s visual presentation has nothing striking to offer. One thing’s for certain, he should probably never work with cinematographer Brendan Galvin. I know that perhaps at this point one is asking why, after my seemingly lengthy list of complaints, would I give this film a 2.5 rating?
Well, the film does have its entertaining moments, but obviously not enough merits to earn my recommendation for a theatrical viewing. The climax of this film alone does deserve a viewing as it is so much fun, but I certainly recommend saving money for a film that has much more to offer.