There isn't enough Clairol For Men in the world to hide the fact that Sylvester Stallone is well past the point in life where he could beat the hell out of a gnarly prison bruiser, much less several at once in a mano a mano throwdown. But this is movie-star prison, where an older actor can go to flex his testosterone and not be questioned too scrupulously about it. As such, Stallone is just as good a choice as any to outrun, out-punch and out-grunt everyone who gets in his way as he tries to break from the world's most impossible superprison. His cellblock pal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, tries to help by shouting in German to create diversions. This works, actually.
Stallone is Ray Breslin, the world's greatest lockdown Houdini, a man whose job it is to detect flaws in prison security systems (we learn that he literally wrote the book on the subject) by going in undercover and then breaking out. But when he finds himself deceived by shady people above him and tossed into a top-secret, ultra-sophisticated facility called "The Tomb," he has to find his way out. But will he?
Derrrrr, of course, and beside the point, especially when the film lives squarely in the land of the exceptionally implausible and features nutty action stunts do-able by nobody ever, waterboarding, Bible-burning, anaesthetic-free surgery, Jim Caviezel as the fastidious, sadistic, classical-music-loving, butterfly-collecting warden, 50 Cent repeating "motherf@#%*&" like he's being paid by the word and Schwarzenegger having a much better time here than in pretty much every other film he's made since returning to film work. He's either chosen to or been forbidden from winking too hard at the camera when he tells another inmate, "Your mother was my favorite whore in Marrakesh!" We've all been granted a stay of execution by insufferable mugging.
That's a consideration going in, no lie. After the broken promises of two Expendables movies, the fear is, naturally, that this project would be just another way to stunt-cast these guys in their own genre, an exercise in desperation no less embarrassing than the most sadly alien-looking cosmetic surgery. But the pair play it straight from start to finish. And if the stern, humorless world they inhabit, one that fails to deliver much in the way of surprise or excitement, never rises to the heights of classic 80s bombast and bravado, it's not really their fault. They work with what they've been given, and what they've been given is the ability to glower like few others in film. They're never going to turn up in a Judi Dench movie about the love travails of pensioners -- and if I'm wrong and they do then I want them to play an aging same-sex couple -- and they're still far more interesting to watch doing this sort of thing than Vin Diesel. You could ask for more and better, but what you get here is plenty for the half-amount of attention it requires.