Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fortress


  Seeing as how I'm a big Christopher Lambert fan from movies like The Hunted, Mortal Kombat, and, of course... Highlander, I'll pretty much get excited over anything with him in it.  More often then not though, I am rather let down.  For a man who's frequently been in the 'A list' he seems to star in enough bombs to knock him back into relative obscurity.  However, there shouldn't be anything obscure about Fortress. Thankfully, with it's slick combination of sci-fi trappings, stylized action, and gadgets galore, Fortress is a hi-tech thriller that doesn't disappoint. The prison escape genre is rarely this much fun.

  It's set in the 'far future' of 2013, and everything is ruled by a ruthless totalitarian regime. Where having more than one child (the world is very overpopulated apparently) is a total crime.  Lambert plays John Brennick, who's trying to get out of America with his pregnant wife (their second child!) and they're trying to hide said fact. However this doesn't go so well and both Brennick and his wife get captured.  They're taken to a super max prison, that is 30 stories... deep.  That's right. This thing is an underground skyscraper. It's massive, and it looks really cool. It's nothing overly original, but it does provide a big sci-fi playground for the filmmakers to screw around with. The prison, for all it's bells and whistles, is practically a character unto itself. 

  The odds are stacked so impossibly against our heroes, that you really wonder if this movie is going to have an escape angle at all. It seems so incredibly impossible.  However- it IS a prison movie. And I've yet to see one, (I think...) that doesn't have an escape plot.  Well, the movie makes good use of it's futuristic prison setting, and pulls out all the stops when it comes to the fancy obstacles our heroes must overcome to break out. The actors go for broke, selling the desperation of their characters with gusto. If any cast of characters could make you believe that a situation was well and truly hopeless, it's this group. Most of them can hardly believe that they're actually attempting this.  Brennick makes for a great reluctant hero, being the de facto leader of this little escape crew. It's fun to watch.

  The film also manages to expertly escalate the problems. As if the computerized prison with all it's deadly booby traps wasn't enough, the warden has to be a villainous snake as well. Played by the fantastic Kurtwood Smith, who might be remembered by genre fans as the iconic Clarence Boddiker from RoboCop.  Well this role may not be as memorable but it's not without it's lines and moments.  He's still fun to watch basically. That's not the end of familiar faces in the supporting cast either! Another minor villain's bit goes to Vernon Wells (Commando), and a really cool role goes to Jeffrey Combs (The Re-Animator) and then another character is played by Clifton Collins Jr. (The Boondock Saints II).  So this movie is quite fun to watch for this reason too. 

  On top of being a really clever prison/escape flick, and consistently upping the stakes for our heroes, the movie also knows it can't be taken too seriously. So it dials up the crazy action and over-the-top gore as well. Going for broke on cool gadgets, big guns and lots of trippy visuals, Fortress manages to be an excellent popcorn flick.  It's frequently silly, but not stupid. Like Deep Rising, it knows it's in a genre that's been done to death, so it makes sure it has the basics down real well, then goes wild in the crazy batshit section.  The last half hour of the movie has Lambert, looking like a wild man (as always) running around, blowing apart cyborg security drones with an arm mounted, triple barreled, belt fed, machine gun.  If I had actually paid to see this movie, that alone would've been worth the cost of admission. 

  In case it wasn't clear, the movie is pretty silly when you really think about it. But it's gleefully self aware and just tries to be flat out entertaining. It works! And for this, I loved Fortress. I'll be keeping it around to show it to friends and have a laugh and a good time. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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