If your favorite part of the movie Face/Off was when Nic Cage had to break out of a futuristic Supermax prison, then Escape Plan is the movie for you. If you don’t have a favorite part of Face/Off, this week’s Stallone/Schwarzenegger vehicle might not be a perfect fit — but I doubt you’ll be bored.

The advertising’s been ubiquitous, so you know what’s up: Sylvester Stallone, who, at a buff 67 is a walking advertisement for HGH (looking at those arms, I am sorely tempted to have what he’s having), plays Ray Breslin. Breslin and a quirk-and-tic-tastic Vincent D’Onofrio run a company that makes big bucks exposing the weaknesses of prisons, supported by the wonderful Amy Ryan and the whatever 50 Cent.

They take a gig that ends up being other than what it seems, and Breslin ends up in a Cabin In The Woods/Magneto reminiscent clear box (seriously, fantasy prisons must keep the world’s plexiglass industry afloat), guarded by scary-ass masked men, and snuggling up to our former governor.

Keeping in mind that this is a genre film, not, like, Oscar bait, there are a lot of things to like about this movie. Top of mind is the cast: look, when you have Sly and Arnold, you can pretty much fill the other roles with unknowns, right? But D’Onofrio and Ryan ARE the real deal, as is Jim Caviezel as the prison warden. And there are a lot of other familiar faces. Like, hey, there’s Vinnie Jones as a sadistic guard (that’s a stretch) and there’s Sam Neill as the prison doctor. If I were a douche I’d say something about them a) slumming or b) elevating the material here. But I don’t care about that — I just like seeing good actors (and Vinnie Jones) do their thing.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger have great chemistry. It’s not a Tango and Cash (another Stallone in prison movie, but if you didn’t know that I doubt you’ve read this far) level bond, but it’s still nice. Stallone turns in a good performance, with genuine moments of vulnerability and fear when he realizes that he’s in for a bad time at Clear Box Lockup. And, as always, he sells the action like few others. For all his (obvious, I mean, look at that guy) ego, Stallone takes a punch and isn’t afraid to look bad doing it.

I was worried about Arnold before this movie, I’ll be honest. Like lots of folks in California media, I’ve spent some time with the guy (ew, not like that) and can attest that he’s a massive Nerf bat of charisma. But so far that hasn’t translated into his post (though maybe not so post?)-politics film career. The Last Stand was a dull dud, and he was lost in the blare of Expendables 2. But he’s back in this film, baby. Arnold’s charming, his comedic timing is on point, and he manages to do an accent — OK, he speaks German with a German (not Austrian) accent. But, still, growth!

Sure, there are problems: the plot gets needlessly convoluted toward the end, in service of multiple (and unnecessary) twists. Someone needed to tell D’Onofrio “no” to just about everything about his performance, which is bitchcakes loony. Caviezel, who is marvelously understated in Person of Interest, chews the prison scenery like a dog toy, and opts for a completely bizarre amateur Shakespeare In the Park accent for his final big bad guy speech. A lot of the characters are beyond stock (drunk, conflicted prison doc! Black computer dude who says “motherfucker”! Etc). And there’s a Muslim-guy subplot that I’m not quite sure about.

There’s enough well-shot action, solid pacing, and nifty MacGyvering to get genre fans through the rough bits, though. And the wigs on the stars? They are fantastic (there’s NO EXCUSE MR. CAGE). If there were a “best fake hair” category, this movie might be Oscar bait after all.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • njudah

    I may end up seeing this (I was a fan of the Christopher Lambert movie “Fortress” ages ago) but I won’t pay to see it because I don’t want Governor Doofinator to get a penny of my money after he ruined the state lol…

    I remember seeing Stallone in front of my old office when they were filming Assassins in Seattle. He’s not very tall!