For fans of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, this might seem like a dream come true way too late. While it might be nice to finally see them together in an action film, it would have been even better if that happened twenty-five years earlier, especially considering the fact that action films haven’t exactly been the same nowadays. 2013 was a dark year for action films. We were given a horrible Die Hard sequel, a pitifully standard Stallone film, and the market was being oversaturated with sequels and copies of other films. Critics generally weren’t very nice towards the film, but then, they’ve hated action films for a long time, often to the point of blatant bias. Though I wouldn’t say this was a particularly great film, I would say that this is a case of other critics missing the point.
The story isn’t completely original, but at least the writing was better than Stallone’s previous effort at the time (let’s face it, Bullet to the Head was little more than a by-the-numbers action film that rested on the laurels of its star). In fact, I find that the plot of this film provides plenty of elbow room for some effective chemistry between the film’s two lead stars, which is good considering the actually plot isn’t much. Basically, it sees Sylvester Stallone working for a security company, and his job consists of breaking out of prisons in order to test the reliability of their security systems, only to be thrown into what is supposedly “the most secure prison ever built” (clearly one the film’s taglines).
I can’t help but think that the film was mainly written this way because the producers wanted to play it safe with regards to the kind of role Stallone plays. Hence, Stallone enjoys a somewhat privileged role in the film. It would have been far better if Stallone and Schwarzenegger played the role of hardened criminals, because at least then the film’s story would have been more believable. Instead, we get a bunch of unquestionably good protagonists against cliché villains, and the film ends in predictable fashion without tying up all the loose ends. Of course, action films generally aren’t good at storytelling, but at least this film has ways of making up for it. Stallone and Schwarzenegger play their roles with a good mixture of rugged seriousness and good humour, and it works so well that it’s though they haven’t aged a bit. However, I can’t say much about the other characters, especially not the film’s mediocre villains. In fact, Jim Caviezel seems to be pretty bad at playing the sadistic prison warden, and the other characters just seem to be chilling in the background.
I’ll admit that the film itself looks pretty good, but there’s not a lot of colour besides grey, which I guess makes some sense because most of the film is spent in a prison. That being said, however, it would seem less grey if the film didn’t use a cliché orchestral score. As for the action element, there’s not much to say. My guess is that they were trying to make a blend of the action film and the prison film, but it’s more of the latter than the former, but that’s not so bad. If you’re an action film fan, you can always count on the villains getting their comeuppance at the end. All in all, it was pretty disappointing, but it’s not terribly unwatchable, and to be honest, it’s not as bad as it could have been. It’s the kind of film that starts pretty good, but then ebbs after a while. At the very least, it’s worth it just to see Stallone and Schwarzenegger side by side in a decent film.
- Score: 65%
- Grade: C