Film: Escape Plan (2013)

Arnold Schwarzenegger is always something of a treat.  Even his worst films, and there are quite a few of them, still have a certain charm because his presence is immense.  In terms of personality alone he fills the screen, add to that his impossible physicality and you have a genuine movie star.  Stallone is a different kettle of fish altogether.  His screen persona was guided by his behind the camera seriousness and this led to films that don’t carry the same weight of nostalgia.  There are some true gems but the majority are either just dunder-headed or nasty and Stallone’s sombre screen persona just doesn’t encourage the benefit of the doubt.

In bringing together Schwazenegger and Stallone, Escape Plan makes the error of assuming that it can combine what both actors do best but falls down on a couple of fronts.  Firstly, the tone switches from self-knowing to self-serious too often and whatever fun has been injected into proceedings gets drained out at regular intervals.  This also comes through in the plotting which would have benefited from a lot of slimming down and ditching the whole financial back story.  Make the story about a wronged man getting help from a fellow inmate who has just had enough of an evil warden.  Simple.  As it is things are less personal and the film suffers because it’s hard to care about money.

On the plus side Arnie is great, even giving us sight of a performance unhindered by that accent, and the parts of the film that are his are very entertaining, plus there are some great slices of ham served up by Jim Caviezel and a cast of familiar faces.

File under ‘wish it was more fun’.

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Film: Total Recall (1990)

Forget ‘Blue sky on Mars’, beads of sweat and other puzzles; the real ambiguity in this film is the physical impossibility of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He doesn’t look like a construction worker or a spy and, if you were being fanciful, his presence (in all senses) could let you argue that the whole film is an implanted memory.  The 2012 remake had a load of great ideas (Rekall as an opium den, ‘the Fall’ – an elevator between England and Australia, John Cho) but Colin Farrell just looks like some guy and there’s no real doubt.

Beyond the head scratching and smarts there is a lot of grown up sci-fi fun to be had here.