Fortress Review

In the future a couple are sent to prison for illegally trying for another child after their first dies of natural circumstances. The husband, john Brennick (Lambert) is sent to a new form of prison which is a self contained dome where the inmates are left to their own devices, even if that means killing each other.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1993

Running Time:

95 minutes



Original Title:


In a fascist future, America has strict laws on population control and hero John Brennick (Lambert) and his wife (Locklin) are sentenced to 31 years a piece in prison when they try to have a second baby after the death of their first. Most oppressive regimes (except China) encourage child-bearing but obviously a no-brain movie like this couldn't bear to make the future seem hell by suggesting the couple could be punished for, say, having an abortion.

The social speculation is dismissed within the first few minutes, so director Gordon can get down to the business of replaying all the prison movie cliches he's ever seen. In the escape-proof fortress, inmates are injected with an "intestinator" gadget which causes extreme pain or can be exploded. Logic takes a back seat to gruesome effects, since the devices are implanted in the stomach rather than the head or the heart, simply so there can be a yucky sequence in which the good guys get rid of their intestinators by magnetically working them up through their gullets.

Otherwise, things are much the same as most penitentiary pictures, with our heroes encountering a sadistic warden (Kurtwood Smith), thuggish would-be rapists, an imprisoned genius and a big break-out at the end. There's a problem, however, in that the villain, the cyborg warden who realises he too is imprisoned in the fortress, is not only more interesting than the hero but more sympathetic, with Smith turning in a performance that easily eclipses Lambert's machismo. Ultimately, though, this is a more honest B picture than No Escape, and one that works reasonably well on its own comic­book terms.

Lambert fails to convince as the action star and somehow it is left to a computer to steal the show.
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