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Year: 1992
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Christopher Lambert, Kurtwood Smith, Jeffrey Combs

A futuristic prison movie. Protagonist and wife are nabbed at a future US emigration point with an illegal baby during population control. The resulting prison experience is the subject of the movie.

fortress 1Was that imdb synopsis written by a robot?  Yeah it’s a pretty fair summation of the film but “Protaganist and wife”?  It really seems like somebody just fed a VHS copy of this film to a computer and this is what it spit out in response.

So, Fortress – a futuristic prison move set in a dystopian future that is, yet again, overly concerned about the human life just spilling out of womenfolk’s vaginas.  While a lot of Dystopian stories are focused on infertility, this one goes the Soylent Green route and deals (tangentially at least) with an overpopulated future.  The main characters here (who actually have names – they’re not just “Protaganist and Wife”) are John Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife Karen (Loryn Locklin).  This future limits the number of children any married couple can have to just one.  John and Karen had a child who died shortly after they were born.  Now they have gone renegade and gotten pregnant again – breaking the law by daring to have another child.  First off, the law is the law – if you do not agree with it then there are proper ways to go about changing that law – writing to congressmen, helping in protests and petitions.  You don’t just assume that since you don’t like the law it shouldn’t have to apply to you. They both get arrested for this and are sentenced to lengthy prison terms at FORTRESS the privately owned maximum security prison.

fortress 2I’ve seen a million prison movies before – heck I did a whole month of women in prison films back in February, and there is noting that sets Fortress apart from those movies – the only difference here is that Fortress happens to be in a science fiction setting.  Come to think of it, Caged Heat 3000 was a science fiction setting as well and Fortress follows ever single cliche that space prison movie did as well.  I hate to say this, but why can’t all space prison movies be Alien 3?  Here we have the overly cruel and sadistic Prison Director Poe (Kurtwood Smith).  There is also a new guy (Clifton Collins Jr.)that’s about to get raped by the other prisoners and our main character saves him and becomes our best friend.  There’s a fight scene between John and a gang leader where he earns the respect of the rest of the prison.  Everything, and I mean everything is the same as every other prison film.

Getting on with the plot, as contrived as it is, Prison Director Poe has decided to make Karen’s pregnant wife his own.  It gives him leverage over John although why Poe feels he so badly needs this leverage is beyond me.  He OWNS the prison, he can do whatever he wants as it is.  Hell, he can have his guards kill John for no reason at all and there would be no consequences.  Why does he have to get John’s wife as a way to bend John to his will.  He has no plans for John, he just does this because he can.  Karen lives with him, begrudgingly and knowing full well that her child will be sold to science.  Yes, all of this serves as motivation for John’s character to break through incredible odds and stage a daring prison escape.  He was fully prepared to serve his sentence without much problem until Poe started this.  But WHY does Poe do this in the first place?  Why, out of all the thousands of prisoners under his care, does he single this one guy out for his crazy whims?  It’s not really entertaining because I have to real compassion for these characters.  Its not really suspenseful at all because the movie is so cliched you already know how its going to end – the same as every other prison movie.  Yeah, I would say spoilers but the movie does a pretty good job of not caring if you know what’s going to happen or not.  Guess what, John and his wife kill the prison director and escape to freedom.  Not much of a shocker there.

fortress 3The performances are okay, for the most part.  Chistopher Lambert is pretty convincing in this particular film.  He’s an actor that’s pretty hit or miss – as an example I’ll be reviewing Absolon in the next few days and he was TERRIBLE there.  Kurtwood Smith always makes a great villain.  While Prison Director Poe doesn’t match up to the campy fun that was Clarence Boddicker in Robocop or as Red on That 70s Show its still a great role for him and he does a great job.  The only other one worth mentioning is Clifton Collins Jr as Nino Gomez.  Not a good role at all and plays this role exactly as Shia LeBouf plays any role – as the male damsel in distress.  I only mention his role simply because its so terrible and somehow this character makes it to the end of the movie (well… almost).  Everybody else – absolutely cliched performance – I would say not worth remembering but they really are unmemorable performances.  I barely remember the rest of the cast and I just watched the movie.  Stuart Gordon has directed some great films in his career, Re-Animator immediately comes to mind and Dagon wasn’t too bad.  But all his memorable films are horror films because, clearly, that is the genre he knows.  His direction of Fortress offers nothing new to the genre, nothing in this movie bothers to stand out at all.

It’s a dystopian film, not a doubt about that, and if I wasn’t doing this whole Dystopia Month I would not have bothered with this movie otherwise.  That’s what I really have to say about this movie in general as well, why bother?  Unless you’re some completionist (like I tend to be) and need to see every single Christopher Lambert performance or every single Stuart Gordon film or something along those lines, then there really is no reason to bother with this utterly forgettable fart of a movie.

About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats
Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski. Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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