By G. Michael Dobbs
A geezer action film and some childhood memories are in this edition of the movie review column.
So what do you do when you’re 67 years old and you’ve spent the better part of your career making often-ludicrous action films? You continue making ludicrous action films and “Escape Plan” is a beauty.
The premise is that Sylvester Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a former attorney who has made his living breaking out of prisons to show state and federal authorities the flaws in their jails. He makes a nice chunk of change doing so although it’s clear he has no other life other than work.
The idea that someone actually has this job is pretty amusing.
After he has just completed a job, he accepts another from a CIA agent who wants him to break out of a new secret facility designed to make people disappear without due process. Naturally, in this new world of ours, it’s run by a private business.
So Breslin goes in and finds a place that has been modeled after his own principles detailed in his best-selling book. He also quickly learns the whole thing is a set-up and he is now a prisoner for the rest of his life unless he can figure out a way to escape.
He is befriended by Rottmayer, an inmate who is clearly a leader among the prisoners and who becomes his ally. The role is played – or underplayed – by Arnold Schwarzenegger who has apparently learned a lot about acting during his time in politics that he never exhibited before.
Rottmayer is charming and three-dimensional while Breslin is a couple steps away from being a mannequin. Stallone registers practically no emotions. He seems incapable of moving his face and perhaps he is.
Jim Caviezel plays Hobbes, the evil warden in a way that I’m sure was intended as parody. Clad in a black business suit, never touching an inmate and mounting butterflies as his hobby, the only things Hobbes doesn’t do is to hiss and twirl a moustache.
There are plot twists and turns in the story and I will say the location of the prison is genuinely clever. I will also note that in this movie Stallone’s love interest is actually only 20 years younger than he is – a begrudging nod in the right direction.
That being said, I can only recommend spending no more than a Red Box rental on this silly film. You’ll instantly regret spending $6 to get it from video on demand from your cable company.
The Lone Ranger: The Lost Episodes
I don’t usually shop for DVDs in a supermarket, but a casual thumbing through the titles in a bin at a Big Y yielded this collection of obscurities that instantly warmed my heart.
Warning: I have a real problem resisting nearly anything that has to with the Lone Ranger, one of my favorite shows from my childhood. If you’re pushing 60 or older you know American children of a certain era were divided by their affections for television heroes such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Sky King, Hopalong Cassidy and the masked rider of the Plains.
Originally released on VHS in 1993, this DVD features various public domain items such as two episodes with original commercials of the classic show starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as well as clips from The Lone Ranger serial made by Republic Pictures in 1938, an animated cartoon from the mid-1930s, trailers for the two Moore feature films and some clever commercials with Moore and Silverheels in character.
The image quality of the offerings does vary and in this high definition world some people might be disappointed.
What really surprised me was an abridged kinescope of an episode of the show “Wide Wide World” from 1958. Broadcast live on Sunday afternoons and hosted by Dave Garroway, this episode centered on the history and status in American culture of the Western movie.
Set on Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch Western movie set, the show includes interviews with John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Gabby Hayes, Walter Brennan and director John Ford, among many others. Perhaps the most pointed interview was with Silverheels who spoke about the treatment of Native Americans in film and on television.
If you enjoy Westerns and are in a nostalgic mood, this DVD will provide much entertainment.