During the 1970s when 80 year old George Burns returned to movies with films like "The Sunshine Boys" and "Oh God," he was not dismissed as an old man desperately trying to maintain a career, he was applauded as a seasoned veteran making a winning comeback. He even garnered an Oscar for "The Sunshine Boys."
When Count Basie would tour with his big band during that same decade, he would receive the same level of respect and adulation for his contributions to the world of jazz.
Nowadays, The Rolling Stones still rocking after 50 years nets derision and laughter. And 60-something action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger often receive the same response. Yes, because the younger talent has really risen to the occasion to eclipse these masters of their niche, right? Now I get to laugh with derision.
"Escape Plan" has all the markings of a B action movie, the same sort of actioner that either actor specialized in back in the 70s , 80s, and even the 90s. While both have made some notoriously bad career choices, even the straight action sagas with no pretensions beyond purely visceral entertainment that either man did created a sub-genre that is rarely found today. With few or none to take their place, Stallone and Schwarzenegger have decided to return to their action drama roots.
Older and wiser seems to be the key to "Escape Plan," as each actor plays a highly intelligent individual who plot to escape from the sort of maximum security prison that nearly rises to the level of science-fiction (and too much explanation can result in spoilers).
B movies were usually low budget, but the films either of these actors made depended on higher budgets to pay for various explosions and so forth. "Escape Plan" is all about art direction, along with the two lumbering slabs of destructive strength whose exhibition of high intelligence causing their eventual triumph adds another element to either established screen persona.
It is all perfectly entertaining, with a fast pace, a compelling story, and some depth to the characters. Brutality and violence, of course, but not a lot of razzle dazzle special effects.
Sometimes cinema is defined by talent and professionalism at a level of competence that never reaches the acting level of Olivier or the direction of Hitchcock. But there is room for action sagas with veteran pros doing the sort of thing they not only perfected, but also helped create.