Artisan Home Entertainment presents
"Crime does not pay."- Zed-10, the master computer of the Fortress
Stars: Christopher Lambert,
Other Stars: Kurtwood Smith, Loryn Locklin
Director: Stuart Gordon
Manufacturer: Sunset Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual situations, language
Run Time: 1h:35m:34s
Release Date: 1999-06-22
DVD ReviewTo say that Fortress is a bad movie doesn't even begin to give you a sense of just how awful this movie is. Let's start with Christopher Lambert, who gives a performance evocative of Sylvester Stallone with a lobotomy. He spends most of the film looking like an emotionless, slack-jawed, dimwitted Neanderthal.
Lambert stars as John Brennick, who in the year 2017 is sentenced to 31 years in an inescapable prison for the crime of attempting to have a second child after the death of his firstborn. His pregnant wife is also sentenced to the same prison, where inmates are kept in line by "intestinators," detonation devices that are planted in their digestive systems.All we end up with is the standard 1940's prison movie with the same stupid cliches, except with the trappings of a futuristic prison environment run by the merciless Warden Poe (played with effeminate glee by Kurtwood Smith, better known as the villain in Robocop) and his computer Zed-10. The whole thing is tied to some bizarre scheme to seize illegally born children and enhance them with robotics (or clone them, or both; the script is less than coherent on this point as well as many others).
The fact that there are four names tied to a screenplay should give an indication that the film is one big mess of a story. The one entertaining idea is the intestinator, which gives the filmmakers the excuse to have some scenes where they "paint the walls red," as one prisoner put it.
Brennick is supposedly a combat veteran of some import, a "black beret," whatever that is, but he shows all the leadership ability of a can of tuna. He insists that no one else attempt to break out, with no reason other than it suits the drama of the story. Neither the script nor Lambert's portrayal indicates that Brennick has a lick of sense and his one virtue appears to be that he can take a serious beating. I'm so impressed. Locklin is suitably vapid as Brennick's wife who takes up with Poe to save her husband's life. The one sympathetic portrayal is Lincoln Kilpatrick as a trustee prisoner who is asked to jeopardize his chances at parole by aiding Brennick in his efforts to escape.
The proceedings culminate in a predictable shower of uninteresting mayhem and a hackneyed conclusion drawn from Christine and Duel. Director Stuart Gordon showed us in Re-Animator that he had a flair for gore; while he uses gore significantly here (e.g., the inmate who gets a foot-wide hole blasted clean through him), it's by the numbers and unimaginative. Don't waste your time. If you should for some reason have a favorite scene, the disc is generously chaptered.
Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - P&S|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Artisan appears to disrespect this film as highly as I do, presenting the 1.85:1 original in a pan & scan format. There is significant grain visible throughout the film. The picture is shot in a workmanlike manner. The colors are occasionally beautiful (for instance, the red laser beams on the doors of the blue cells) but that's about all that can be said for the visual presentation. In the first few sections, the skin tones seemed reddish, but after the first half-hour they are generally acceptable in color. I cannot give a pan-and-scan only disc a passing grade, so:
Image Transfer Grade: F
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is presented in a healthy Dolby Surround track. The sound is full and there is some good directionality (although hearing a sliding door move from the right to the left speaker struck me as somewhat excessive). The contrast of dialogue from the center speaker with the computer voice of Zed-10 from the mains and surrounds was in particular quite effective. The sound is clearly the best thing about this presentation. No doubt it would be better in 5.1, but Dolby Surround seems to be adequate.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: The extras are pretty thin here. We are given brief production notes, bios of Lambert, Smith, Locklin and Gordon and filmographies for each of them. No subtitles are provided which is annoying in a film where much of the dialogue is delivered in monotone mumbles. A single theatrical trailer is provided.On the positive side, the menu is easily navigable. When you complete each cast and crewmember, you are automatically taken to the next one on the list, so you can navigate the entire section with just the ENTER button on your remote.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsAbysmal acting, lackluster direction and a moronic script help to combine to make this film a mess. Since it doesn't even have original aspect ratio to recommend it, this one is a definite pass.
Mark Zimmer 2000-05-03