Movie review: ‘Escape Plan:’ Sly, Arnold, testosterone, explosions

Sylvester Stallone continues his all-star action icon reunion tour alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Escape Plan,” with plenty of violence, explosions and clunky one-liners.

In other words, it’s par for the course for a movie starring Sly and Arnold.

“You punch like a vegetarian,” Schwarzenegger tells Stallone in one of their early encounters in an uber-maximum security prison, a line that probably wouldn’t elicit much more than a brief snort if it weren’t being delivered from one legendary action hero to another.

Despite the fact that there are at least the raw materials for a cool story, this film is primarily a showcase of the two musclemen facing off and teaming up much more extensively than they’ve done in the “Expendables” franchise.

Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a security expert who escapes from prisons for a living to help them identify weaknesses. For his latest job, the CIA has (supposedly) asked him to test the strength of an off-the-books facility where the world’s governments send people they want “disappeared.”

But Ray quickly discovers his incarceration is for real, as he’s cut off from his team (Amy Ryan, “The Office,” and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) in a prison that keeps inmates in check through a combination of cutting-edge design, sadistic guards and high technology – with the glaring exception of any decent audio surveillance. It’s run by Warden Hobbs (Jim Caviezel, “Person of Interest”) whose manic villainy wouldn’t be out of place in Gotham City. Ray soon meets up with Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), who has a knack for getting things done, even in the prison’s oppressive conditions.

Stallone grunts and scowls his way through a role that is tailor-made for him: tough-guy loner with questionable social skills and a knack for getting things done no matter the odds or the number of foes. That’s how we know Stallone, and why would he change it if people keep buying tickets?

Schwarzenegger, though, gives Rottmayer a sense of humor and an energy that I didn’t anticipate from the big man who I recall often being the butt of the jokes in his pre-Governator film career. For 80 percent or so of the movie, he’s not what I expect in a Schwarzenegger character. Ray is the alpha male; Rottmayer is something else. But there comes a moment when he very clearly steps back into the familiar Arnold shoot-em-up persona.

The plot is interesting but clumsy at times. I’m still not sure if things didn’t fit together well or were just poorly explained. Some twists are revealed quickly and in a matter-of-fact manner that leaves you little time during the movie to question exactly how much sense they make.

The movie does manage to include action that’s not violence, but plenty of gunplay erupts as the finale approaches. It’s not my cup of tea, but hardly unexpected given the stars. At least it’s appropriately bloody, rather than the sanitized shootouts common in so many films.

“Escape Plan” is not un-entertaining, and when you see the name Stallone or Schwarzenegger above the title, you’ve got to know what you’re getting into. But other than the pairing of the stars, it’s not a particularly noteworthy film.