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Fortress (1993)

Fortress coverStudio: Echo Bridge

Theatrical Release: September 3rd, 1993

Blu Ray Release: May 7th, 2013

Rating: R

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Review by Craig Sorensen

At the time of it’s release in the early ‘90s, Fortress was at best a forgettable sidestep in director Stuart Gordon’s (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Kid Safe: The Video) oeuvre.  But the years have been kind to the film and it’s now able to stand out a little bit from the crowd.  Sure, it’s still a cheap as hell B-movie but it’s fun, it’s got a good cast and you can tell what the fuck is happening in the action scenes.

Christopher Lambert (The Sicillian) stars as John Brennick, American with a weird accent.  He and his wife are trying to escape across the American border.  Why?  Well, they are about to have a baby and in this particular dystopia that’s against the law.  Anyway, John gets caught and thrown into the futuristic underground prison known as The Fortress, run by the strange prison director Poe (Kurtwood Smith of Going Berserk).  John is fitted with his “intestinator” (that’s an explosive device in a prisoner’s intestines that keeps them from escaping) and thrown into a cell with a motley crew of other prisoners: Nino (Clifton Collins Jr. of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit), Abraham (Lincoln Kilpatrick of Soylent Green), D-Day (Jeffrey Combs of The Man With Two Brains), Stiggs (Tom Towles of Pink Nights) and Maddox (Vernon Wells of Manosaurus).  Will this ragtag group of miscreants be able to work together to escape THE FORTRESS?  What do you think?

So the plot of this thing is sort of ZPG meets Escape from New York.  It borrows from both left and right wing conspiracy theories to create it’s totalitarian government but most of that doesn’t really matter.  It’s just an excuse to get Lambert into the prison.  Once there the film almost becomes stagiest action movie ever.  There are only about three sets in this film.  Yeah, this film is cheap.  A lot of the props look like they are made out of plastic.  Still, the cheapness sort of lends the film a bit of charm.  And that cast certainly helps the cheapness go down a lot easier.

Fortress has aged pretty well for a B-movie. Maybe it's just that I dislike action movies so much now. We have a protagonist that isn't "the chosen one" which is a good place to start.  I’m so tired of seeing messiah stories in my action films.  I want to see characters who are just ordinary men (or ordinary men with Navy Seal training) pushed to their limits and doing what needs to be done.  None of this destiny shit.  And you can tell what's going on during the fight scenes. The camera doesn’t shake all over the place to cover up bad filmmaking.  It's also nice to see good old fist fights in a film rather than everyone kickboxing all over the place.

So this Blu-Ray from Echo Bridge is barebones.  No extras at all.  A nice doc or commentary would have been great.  Films this low budget usually have good stories from the set.  I guess we’ll never hear them.  Another problem with this disc is that it’s the R rated American cut and not the Unrated version.  Still, this thing is five bucks so I guess you can’t complain.  The transfer looks nice though.  I mean, it’s not something you want to use to show off the virtues of the format but it does look better than the DVD.  The only sound option is a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix.  It sounds good.  Nothing spectacular but it gets the job done.  I guess there’s nothing really spectacular going on with this disc.  Still, Fortress is a fun film and for five dollars you could do a lot worse.

[Rating: 3 stars]

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