Fortress (1992 film)
|Directed by||Stuart Gordon|
|Produced by||John Davis
|Written by||Troy Neighbors
|Music by||Frédéric Talgorn|
|Distributed by||Dimension Films|
|Budget||$8 million (estimated)|
|Box office||about $48 million|
Fortress is a 1992 Australian-American science fiction film directed by Stuart Gordon and shot at Warner Bros. Movie World in Queensland, Australia. The story takes place in a dystopian future. The main character in the movie, John Henry Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife Karen B. Brennick (Loryn Locklin) are sent to a maximum security prison because they are expecting a second child, which is against strict one-child policies. It was followed by a sequel, Fortress 2: Re-Entry in 2000.
The film was a financial success, but critical reviews were mixed.
In a dystopian 2017, ex-army officer John Henry Brennick and his wife Karen are attempting to cross the Canada–United States border to Vancouver to have a second child. Strict one-child policies forbid a second pregnancy, even after their firstborn has died, so Karen wears a magnetic vest to trick the security scanners. A guard notices and raises the alarm.
Brennick is caught, believing Karen to have escaped, and sentenced to 31 years at the Fortress, a private maximum security prison run by the Men-Tel Corporation. To maintain discipline all inmates are implanted with "Intestinators" which induce severe pain or death as a form of physical control and mental conditioning. The prison is co-run by Director Poe, who oversees Zed-10, a computer that monitors day-to-day activities. The prison is located underground, in the middle of the desert, inside a deep pit that can only be crossed by a retractable bridge, while the prisoners are kept in overcrowded cells secured by laser walls.
John is imprisoned with inmates Abraham, a model prisoner who works as Poe's manservant and is awaiting parole; D-Day, a machine and demolitions expert; Nino Gomez and Stiggs, who tries to extort John. John learns his wife has been captured and is held in another level with his unborn child who, being illegal, is now officially owned by Men-Tel and will be confiscated at birth.
Stiggs has a friend, Maddox, who intimidates John and the two are involved in a brawl which culminates with Maddox being shot by a security turret. John manages to grab Maddox's Intestinator and gives it to D-Day before he is taken away to be subjected to a mind-wipe procedure as punishment.
Poe, infatuated with Karen, tells her that if she lives with him he will treat John well and release him from the mind-wipe chamber. She accepts to help John. Poe is revealed to be a cyborg, powerfully enhanced by Men-Tel cybernetics. Four months later, a heavily pregnant Karen manages to use her access to the prison computer in Poe's quarters to help John by restoring him from his mind-wiped state. Karen steals a holographic map and gives it to Abraham to give to John. D-Day dismantles Maddox's Intestinator and uses a magnetic component to pull out the others' Intestinators.
During their next work shift John's group puts their Intestinators in an air-duct and stage a brawl, causing Zed to trigger the devices and blow the duct open to prepare their escape. Poe promptly flushes the duct with steam and sends in "Strike Clones", networked cyborgs armed with flamethrowers and machine guns. Stiggs surrenders and gets shot dead, but the rest of the group kill a Strike Clone, steal its weapon and use it to kill the remaining clones.
Zed alerts Poe of Karen's actions. He reveals to her that her child, like all MenTel-owned babies, will be extracted in a fatal Caesarean to be made a cyborg. Abraham and Karen resist, but are powerless against the cyborg Poe and Abraham dies of strangulation.
Hijacking one of the gun turrets and using it as an elevator, John's group travels to Zed's control room. John takes Poe hostage and orders him to release Karen. Poe gives the order, but Zed refuses the command while stating that MenTel does not engage in any negotiations during hostage situations and a gun turret blasts Poe, blowing him to pieces and leaving John's group with no leverage. Once brought over to the core computer, D-Day hacks into Zed and accesses a powerful virus confiscated at the start of his sentence. D-Day manages to activate the virus after being shot and incapacited, causing a complete systems crash and all automated security to fail. John and Gomez rescue Karen, hijack a truck, and escape to Mexico where Karen enters labor in an abandoned barn and gives birth to her and John's child.
The original ending of Fortress has been edited from some versions of the film. After reaching Mexico, Brennick, his wife, and Gomez end up at a barn where she starts going into labor. Gomez goes out to the truck to get a blanket for the soon-to-arrive baby. The Fortress computer manages to establish a remote linkup with the truck, overriding its internal controls. The truck suddenly comes to life and runs Gomez down, killing him. Brennick shoots the truck with the Strike Clone machine gun. He then sets it on fire with the flamethrower attachment. The truck crashes into the barn, exploding. Brennick climbs into the burning ruins to find his wife sitting against an old tractor, clutching her newborn baby.
- Christopher Lambert as John Henry Brennick
- Loryn Locklin as Karen B. Brennick
- Annika Thomas as Brennick baby
- Kurtwood Smith as prison director Poe
- Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as Voice of Zed-10
- Lincoln Kilpatrick as Abraham
- Jeffrey Combs as D-Day, computer geek
- Tom Towles as Stiggs, Maddox's Buddy
- Vernon Wells as Maddox
- Clifton Collins, Jr. (credited as Clifton Gonzalez-Gonzalez) as Nino Gomez
- John Pierce as Moustached Prisoner
- Warwick Capper as cameo
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Stephen Holden of The New York Times said: "Like so many other futuristic movies, Fortress is a lot better at setting up its premise than in developing a story around it, [but] for all its faults, [it] has an unusually energetic imagination. At its best, it blends RoboCop, The Handmaid's Tale, and Brave New World into something scary, original and grimly amusing."
Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video Reviews said: "It’s a good little film, kept very interesting by a multitude of plot twists. [...] The beauty of this movie is that it’s not terribly ambitious; [director Stuart] Gordon knew that it was not meant to be this generation’s defining science fiction film, and so instead had fun with it. The characters are colorful and engaging, and the actors are b-movie all-stars; the story moves along at a fair clip; and the prison itself is a novel setting, with plenty of inconsistencies in future technology but none that sit up and insist that you notice them."
James Berardinelli of ReelViews said: "Fortress has [...] an impressive visual style, [...] the set design is excellent, and the action scenes are well-paced, [but it's] hampered by a poorly-constructed story line [and] never gets on track. Instead of entering the rarefied atmosphere inhabited by such films as Aliens and the original Terminator, it falls in line with the likes of Freejack and Alien 3."
Fortress grossed $2,855,154 at the box office in Australia. Internationally it grossed 40 million dollars, turning into a very profitable movie for having been shot with a budget of $12,000,000.
- Fortress review, Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 4 September 1993
- Fortress review, Cold Fusion Video Reviews
- Fortress review, James Berardinelli, ReelViews
- Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
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