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video review out of 4 Movie Review: Fortress

Starring: Christopher Lambert, Kurtwood Smith
Director: Stuart Gordon
Rated: R
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: September 1993
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Loryn Locklin, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Jeffrey Combs

Review by Dragan Antulov
½ star out of 4

In the mid-1980s, following the splendid debut in Hugh Hudson's GREYSTOKE and relative success of first HIGHLANDER film, it looked like Christopher Lambert's acting career might go somewhere. But, it wasn't meant to be, which became obvious following HIGHLANDER II. In this decade Christopher Lambert became associated with films with low budgets and even lower quality. Very often such films were science fiction, which meant that the fans of that genre learned the hard way what to evade anything starring Christopher Lambert. Whether it was because of real lack of talent, terrible miscasting or simple bad luck isn't important - the end result was almost always horrible. The same can be said for FORTRESS, 1993 science fiction film directed by Stuart Gordon, director who created cult following with his 1980s horror gorefests like REANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND.

The movie is set in 2018. For some undisclosed reason, USA introduced strict population control and couples are barred from having more than one child. Jake (Christopher Lambert) and Karen Brennick (Lori Laughlin) broke that law and are caught by authorities on the border. Sentenced to 31 years in prison, they are both thrown into Fortress, privately owned correctional facility, equiped with state-of-the-art futuristic technology and run by computer called Zed. Although equiped with gismos that regulate every aspect of inmates' lives and make any escape impossible, prison authorities often use violence. Jake survives many ordeals and earns respect of some inmates which would help him when he begins planing the escape. Such escape should become necessity, because the warden Poe (Kurtwood Smith) begins showing unhealthy interest in Karen.

After rather intriguing beginning and some interesting special effects that depict the futuristic settings of prison, this film soon starts sinking into mediocrity. The reason is in the screenplay that quickly degenerates into whole series of prison movie clichés and situations that are painfully predictable. By the time Brennick begins his escape from Fortress, those situations not only begin to look predictable, but utterly implausible too. Of course, film never tried to explain why the country that lacks resources to support its present population happens to spend bucketloads of money on ultra-expensive supertechnology with sole intention of keeping alive most useless and dangerous members of the society. The initially interesting plot is done even more wrong by stereotyped characters, played by not too interested or talented actors. Lori Laughlin, although physically attractive, shows the acting ability of sequoia. Kurtwood Smith as prison warden is rather uninspired, capable of solid, yet forgettable performance. Lambert's performance is also good, but even the bigger talent couldn't help this film, destined to end in oblivion.

Copyright © 1999 Dragan Antulov

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