Fortress (1992 film)

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Directed by Stuart Gordon
Produced by John Davis
John Flock
Written by Troy Neighbors
Steven Feinberg
Starring Christopher Lambert
Kurtwood Smith
Loryn Locklin
Jeffrey Combs
Vernon Wells
Clifton Collins, Jr.
Music by Frédéric Talgorn
Cinematography David Eggby
Distributed by Dimension Films
Release dates
December 1992 (Hungary)
3 September 1993 (USA)
Running time
91 min.
Language English
Budget $8,000,000 (estimated)
Box office about $48,000,000

Fortress is a 1992 science fiction film directed by Stuart Gordon and shot at Warner Brothers 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 1999.


In a dystopian 2017, ex-army officer John Henry Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) are attempting to cross the US-Canada 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 the trick and raises the alarm.

Brennick is caught, believing Karen to have escaped, and sentenced to 31 years in a private maximum security prison run by the "MenTel Corporation". To maintain discipline all inmates are implanted with "Intestinators" which induce severe pain or death, for serious infractions, as a form of physical control and mental conditioning. The prison is co-run by Director Poe (Kurtwood Smith), who oversees Zed-10, a computer that monitors day-to-day activities and represents MenTel. The prison itself 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, a tough inmate who tries to extort John. John also learns his wife has been captured and is held in another level with his unborn child who, being illegal, is now officially owned by the MenTel Corporation and will be confiscated at birth.

Stiggs has a friend called Maddox (Vernon Wells) who intimidates John and the two are involved in a violent 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 for the incident.

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, resolving to help John as best she can. Poe is soon after revealed to be a cyborg, powerfully enhanced by MenTel 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 also steals a holographic map (which shows the prison map under a laser light) and gives it to Abraham to pass on to John. She tells Abraham that Poe was never going to grant parole and was only using the incentive to control him.Meanwhile, in their cell, 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 stages 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 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 like him. Abraham and Karen resist, but are powerless against the cyborg Poe and Abraham dies of strangulation.

Hijacking one of the gun turrets, 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 states that MenTel does not negotiate in hostage situations and a gun turret shoots Poe. D-Day hacks into Zed and accesses a virus confiscated at the start of his sentence. D-Day manages to activate the virus after being fatally shot, 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. In a final showdown (retained in the European release but omitted from the US release in favor of a happier ending) the truck stages an attack while Karen is giving birth. Gomez is mown down and John's shooting sets the truck on fire, making it veer into the barn and explode. Karen, however, managed to escape the barn in time and has given birth to their child.

Original ending[edit]

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.



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."[1]

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."[2]

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."[3]

Box office[edit]

Fortress grossed $2,855,154 at the box office in Australia.[4] Internationally it grossed 40 million dollars, turning into a very profitable movie for having been shot with a budget of $12,000,000.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fortress review, Stephen Holden, The New York Times, 4 September 1993
  2. ^ Fortress review, Cold Fusion Video Reviews
  3. ^ Fortress review, James Berardinelli, ReelViews
  4. ^ Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  5. ^ [1]

External links[edit]