The Expendables was made with a firm sense of tongue in cheek. Let’s take a bunch of aging action stars (and some new ones) and throw them into a movie together. Expendables 2 continued that trend, and they are shooting the third in the series now, which will include Wesley Snipes and Harrison Ford – yes, I said Harrison Ford. I cannot wait.
In any case, once Arnold’s political career was over, and he was freed up to make silly action movies again, he and Stallone both agreed to appear in the Tomb, about the two of them attempting to break out of an unbreak-out-able prison. Along the way, the name was changed to Escape Plan, and the result is a solid action movie.
Stallone plays Stallone – or Ray Breslin – who is a world famous prison expert. The federal government has hired him to check the security of prisons across the country. The movie opens with him escaping from a prison in Colorado; then reporting back to his team and partner. They then get an offer from the CIA to check their new exceptionally secure high-tech prison (the Tomb). He’s picked up in New Orleans, and taken to a series of stacked plastic boxes. He meets another inmate named Rottenmeier, who swiftly befriends him. Together they observe the guards and activities at this “Tomb” and begin to form their “Escape Plan”. It’s not complicated, it doesn’t really need to be, but it’s sufficiently well-crafted and fun to watch. It’s directed by Mikael Hafstrom, and seems to be the Swedish director’s first American English-speaking movie.
The cast speaks for itself:
- Sylvester Stallone plays Ray Breslin. He is now 67 (and still 5’10”, not nearly as short as people have been telling you he is), and still in fantastic shape. However, you can certainly see the effect of the neck surgery he had after the first Expendables movie. He doesn’t really seem to be able to turn his head anymore, and has to turn his whole body to look around. But really, what do you expect after Stone Cold Steve Austin practically broke his neck. He does a very good job in this movie; it’s more of an understated performance, which is really what he is best at. He does a lot of observing and analyzing, and it was fun to see him play a smart character. I actually really liked the back story of why Breslin has this career as well, it was fitting and well-played. There are a few moments where I could not understand what he was talking about – just because he is sometimes really difficult to understand.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Emil Rottmayer. He is a year younger than Stallone and is listed at 4 inches taller, but in this movie they look like they are almost the same height. He’s still in great shape, and I have to tell you, his acting in this movie is better than I have seen him in a long time. His character immediately and aggressively befriends Breslin when he arrives in prison. He helps him observe and plan, to the point of helping him get put in solitary – twice. The second time requires an extended diversion, which allows Arnold to pretend to go completely insane while screaming in German. It is the most range I’ve seen him have, perhaps ever, and was a really entertaining sequence.
- Jim Caviezel plays the evil prison warden Hobbes. He is absolutely vile in this movie, very oily and smarmy. He plays his part with a very quiet, sadistic charm. He used Breslin’s book to create the prison, and once he finds out who Breslin is, does everything in his power to keep him there. He has a hobby of mounting butterflies, which is creepy and weird, and doesn’t really serve a purpose, except for proving how creepy and weird he is.
- Faran Tahir (the man who should have been the Mandarin, if you’re going to update that character), plays Javed, and is really wonderful in this as another prisoner who is first at odds with the two ‘heroes’, then sides with them to help their plan. He’s great every time I see him, and I hope he continues to get interesting roles that are not always ‘intimidating Middle-Eastern man’.
- Amy Ryan from the Office plays one of the Members of Breslin’s team, and Curtis “50-cent” Jackson plays the other. Yes, seriously. You could not pick a more random pair if you tried. They do their best to help keep track of Breslin, but promptly lose his signal once he is picked up. They then continue to work with Breslin’s partner to try to get him back. Ryan is fine, but Jackson should maybe stick to rap. He only has a few lines, and I didn’t buy any of them.
- Sam Neill (hey! Sam Neill is in this movie!) plays the prison doctor. He’s a good doctor, but if he’s so good, why is he in this horrible prison? Well, thank goodness he is, so that our characters can turn to him for assistance at key moments. No spoilers there, you see that coming as soon as his character is introduced.
- Vinne Jones plays Drake – and honestly, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t been in an Expendables movie yet, perhaps in the third? He’s basically just a sadistic prison guard who gets to beat up on Stallone repeatedly. And I do mean repeatedly. If you want to see him in something really entertaining, rent the UK version of the Longest Yard – which is called Mean Machine. It’s fabulous.
- Vincent D’Onofrio plays Breslin’s partner, Lester Clark. He helps Breslin get put into all these prisons, then helps collect payment once he breaks out. He has a very deliberate character piece in the beginning that he seems to be a germaphobe, constantly using hand sanitizer, and not touching anyone. That never comes back, and never really gets a big payoff like it could. Interesting, but wasted. He’s weird in this, but he’s weird in everything.
Overall, this is better than Bullet to the Head from earlier this year, but not as good as The Last Stand from earlier this year. Really, I think it will just hold you until Expendables 3 comes out. It’s certainly entertaining, but by no means great.
6 out of 10 – Gained points for the reveal of where the prison actually is – it was very interesting, and well done. Lost points for the weird butterfly thing. Gained points for Arnold going crazy. Lost points for the twist at the end being seeing from light-years away – at least by me. Lost points for Breslin telling the doctor to check in the warden’s office for a book, the doctor finding the book, then believing Breslin from that point forward. What was in the book? Why did that suddenly make him trust him? I suppose that does not matter.
Bonus Video 1: Mean Machine – super entertaining.
Bonus Video 2: Dead Calm – Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman get terrorized by Billy Zane.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: