When it was announced a few calendar spots ago that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be teaming for a two-hander called “The Tomb” most of – come on, admit it! – excitedly wet our pants.
I know, like you, I too felt that feeling quickly turn into the dreaded ‘but wait!? is this a case of too little, too late?’ sweats, wondering if “The Tomb” might be the ‘Righteous Kill’ – the De Niro/Pacino reunion movie that stunk worse than a slice of Blue Grenadier left on a kitchen bench overnight – of blockbuster action movies.
Can’t tell you how big my smile has gotten over the past couple of weeks. Having spoken to several people involved in the picture, and not only hearing the initial sales pitch – and what director Mikael Hasfstrom is going for here tonally – but getting a flick-through of what’s an amazingly-fun script, I am completely sold. Sure, Arnold and Sly share the screen together in “The Expendables” and its upcoming sequel, but this is the first real back-to-back two-hander for the icons of action cinema and producers Rob Brenner, Mark Canton, Spencer Silna, Randall Emmett, Nicholas Stern and Kevin King Templeton know it. They’re determined not to go down as the guys that brought down Rambo and the Terminator; if anything, this is intended to be the next big classic edition to both Sly and Arnold’s impressive roster of hits.
And you know, I think it may just end up being just that.
*** BEWARE OF MILD SPOILERS ***
So, what I can tell you about “The Tomb”?
Well, we’re back in “Demolition Man” terrain – the near future.
Stallone is Ray Breslin, a filthy-rich prison-escapee-for-hire. He likes to test out the high-security prisons that he’s designed by attempting to break out of them.
For the past 8 years he has been breaking out of prisons on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Corrections, to test how impenetrable and what flaws might exist in the respective penitential. Man is an absolute genius – smart as an internet entrepreneur and as tough as the bodyguard hired to protect such a mastermind.
When the film opens we’ll, of course, get to see one of these hush-hush missions in play – much to the chagrin of the grizzled old warden who watches in dismay as one of his prisoners destroys cars and architecture as he makes his way out of the prison.
That one, of course, was intended to be Ray’s last (the Bureau, namely Breslin’s main contact ‘Clark’, is a little disappointed to hear that).
Breslin lives in an ultra-chic apartment, complete with expensive high-end furniture and art, that says nothing about the man but ‘shit, i’m rich’. His company in the loft? Margot the cat (I want the character to have its own standee – “don’t touch the pussy”). His life has been nothing but prisons for the better part of a decade. Now, he’s just going to take on boring security inspection jobs .
Breslin’s company is based out of a sleek, metal high-rise that houses an office that screams ‘brain!’ what with the complex cubes and various nerd puzzles adoring the shelves and the big guy’s desk. This man can seemingly work his way out of any puzzle, let alone penal complex.
He and loyal colleague Abigail (nice plum female lead role), a twenty-something pretty blonde with brains as well as bodacious looks, have been asked to do another job. Though reluctant and despite Abigail’s discouragement, Breslin – and his $10m price tag – caves in.
The Bureau – namely, old friend ‘Clark’ – advise Breslin that he won’t know anything about the next location they want him to break out of. Though said to be a military establishment, the prison-cracker won’t know any of the where’s or what’s.
Breslin ends up in ‘The Tomb’ – Guantanamo Bay 2.0, a private facility that’ll open its doors – and quickly shut them – to whoever can pay. It’s owned by a man named Hobbes.
On the inside, Breslin befriends a cheeky, muscular ex-military man by the name of Swan (Schwarzenegger). Swan explains to his new friend that all the prisoners have been sent to this particular establishment because they’re all enemies of the state. They’ll remain in ‘The Tomb’ for interrogation and until the state decides what to do with them. Meantime, Swan advises his new friend to watch his ass – and try not get killed, because dead bodies lead to the cancellation of prison social nights (classic Arnie!).
Prison Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his main guard Drake (I dunno why, but I kept seeing the Ronny Cox/Michael Ironside combo from “Total Recall” – not such a bad thing, no!?) are your typical ice-cold ’80s movie villains – hating on the ‘scum’ they have to cage. Oh, and Drake is said to be ‘Australian’ – think Vernon Wells! Shit, go get Vernon Wells, guys!
In order to get out – and help a few new friends, like Swan, escape too – of the floating prison, Breslin has to arm himself with the one thing that might just save his ass : His brain. In several sequences, we get a “mind’s eye view” of Breslin working out the inner structure of the prison – how the rooms are connected, what each room is wired or built of, what machines and systems function in them; it’s a visual schematic if you will.
I don’t want to tell you how it all turns out – though I guess any fan of Sly and Arnie’s knows exactly where and how this thing ends, right? What I will say is that this is the real deal. This is the combo package of the great Sly and Arnie classics of years gone by – imagine ‘Ray Tango’ and ‘Dutch Schaefer’ teaming up (in fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Schwarzenegger’s character was inspired or rewritten to be closer in character to his “Predator” hero) to take out the trash, complete with the kind of verbal and tangible arsenal those guys became famous for.
Stallone’s character is very decent, but Schwarzenegger’ Swan is the first ‘real Schwarzenegger’ character we’ve seen in a long time – smart quips, the ability to knock-out cold anyone with just a thrust of his monstrous elbow, and armed with a monstrous gun… this is Dutch Schaefer, prisoner. You’re gonna love it, guys.
“The Tomb” is, excuse my French, the mother fuckin’ Arnold/Sly two-hander we’ve been waiting for. It’s not just a balls-to-the-wall action extravaganza, but it’s a smart one – it’s smartly written with fun characters, and a nifty mostly-original plot, but it’s also been doused in the kind of old school popcorn ’80s actioner tone that “Tango & Cash”, “Red Heat” and “Lock-Up” – to use a few Stallone examples – causing a surge in protein powder sales.
Can’t wait to get a peek of Barry Chusid’s production designs, namely the floating prison – should look a treat.