If the promotional material is believed then this is the film that we have all been waiting for. For the very first time Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger star together in a movie. Personally I do not remember the campaign to make this happen. I could have been blinking at the time and missed it.
Ray (Sylvester Stallone) is just an escape artist. His career and his company have been constructed around his very special set of skills. He can find a way out of any prison. With his team on the outside, he can be inserted into any facility under an alias, check out the systems and expose the weaknesses in the incarceration set up. Out of the blue, he is offered a job by the CIA to test their brand new, super secret facility which will house the worst of the enemies of the USA. The circumstances of the offer are unusual and going against the advice of his team, Ray accepts the job. Of course it is a trap and Ray soon finds himself in a maximum security set up in an unknown location. There seems to be no way out. Realising that he has been fooled he befriends Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the leader of one of the prison gangs. Between them, they must try to figure out a way to gain their freedom.
For what it is this actually not too bad. The basic story is very familiar and it is conveyed to the audience in a straightforward way. There are few surprises and any twists the film attempts can be observed from a long way off. Outside of the main characters of Ray, Rottmayer, and Hobbes, the prison warden, the supporting cast do not have anything to do. Their characters are merely sketched out and there are little in the way of depth attributed to them. They are mainly there as plot devices or to reinforce a point that the audience may have not picked up on or overlooked.
You cannot really argue with or critique the principal performances. Stallone has the larger of the two roles given that he has more screen time. He is not exactly stretched in terms of his portrayal of Ray. It is very familiar late period Sly. He continues to be able to handle the action beats without it looking embarrassing and of course he gets to deliver the occasional comedy quip. Arnie does a reasonable job playing off of Stallone. As with Sly, he doesn’t stretch himself. To be fair, he rarely did throughout his career. The scenes with them together are entertaining enough, but some of the dialogue comes across as a bit wooden and may have benefitted from a re-write. Arnie has one scene where he has to act as if he is going insane. This is probably his best sequence in the film in that he seems to be really enjoying letting go and in the process of reminding the audience that he can be quite funny at times.
The failing of the film is that it you could substitute any number of similar actors into the lead role and the result would have proved to be same. It only makes sense to get older actors in the roles if you take into account the background of the men. They are both supposed to have had extensive careers in their chosen field and a slightly younger actor. Jason Statham for instance, would not have fitted as well. As this is Hollywood I am confident this was not taken into consideration as there is a rich history of mis-casting resulting in confusing and unbelievable films.
The slight downside of having older actors is the limitations that the process of aging places on them. This is just an action film and by its nature involves a lot of physically demanding acting. Careful staging and clever editing can only go so far to make the action more vivid. The scope for diversity of action scenes is reduced when you are reduced to the main characters involved in straight up fists fights. Action film fans expect a lot more these days and the punch, shoot up combination seems very old school.
Overall the film is a formulaic actioner which is able to keep the audience entertained if not overly excited.
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