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Movie Review

Action icons fun to watch – even in so-so story

‘Escape Plan’

It’s nice to know that, as they enter their golden years, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger can still carry an action flick, albeit a flimsy, particleboard one like “Escape Plan.”

Still, there is modest pleasure to be had watching the Italian Stallion, at 67, and the 66-year-old Austrian Oak, as Schwarzenegger was known in his bodybuilding days, delivering justice to those who would disrupt their retirement.

They may have to stop and rest a bit longer than they used to these days – allowing the movie to sag in the middle – but seeing them together is like a visit to Grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving: musty-smelling and overly familiar, but satisfying.

Just don’t get your hopes up.

“Escape Plan” is the story of Ray Breslin (Stallone), a prison security consultant whose job entails getting incarcerated, just so he can break out, exploiting prisons’ weaknesses in order to correct them. He’s been at it for so long that, as he escapes from one prison in the opening scene, Ray seems almost bored.

Maybe that expression of apathy is meant to show that’s he cool, but here it simply looks like the effect of one Botox injection too many. And yes, Stallone still mumbles like he’s got a mouth full of Novocaine. Half of his dialogue is unintelligible, yet the script, by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, miraculously doesn’t suffer. The movie is closer to pantomime than Shakespeare anyway.

After the brief prologue, we learn that Ray’s next gig is for the CIA, which we’re told has set up a high-tech penitentiary for the world’s most violent terrorists, in an undisclosed location. Once inside, Ray finds that he’s been set up; he’s not expected to bust out, ever. But who has done this to him, and why? A fellow prisoner, Emil (Schwarzenegger), quickly becomes his protector and co-conspirator.

Now, in case you’ve forgotten, neither Stallone nor Schwarzenegger can act. That’s why they make movies in which they don’t have to. One high point of the film is a slow-motion close-up of Schwarzenegger’s lined and gray-bearded face as he grabs a machine gun, preparing to open up some whoop-ass. Director Mikael Hafstrom, a Swede who until now has specialized in horror films, treats the shot as though it were being filmed from a helicopter circling Mount Rushmore.

As he should. The movie’s stars are icons, not thespians.

The plot itself is predictably divorced from reality, containing more holes – and smelling staler – than month-old Swiss cheese.

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