Fortress (1992) Directed by Stuart Gordon. With Christopher Lambert, Kurtwood Smith, Loryn Locklin and Clifton Collins Jr.
There are solid ideas at work in Fortress, a dystopian vision of 2017 which summons the tonal feel (and blood flow) of Total Recall and RoboCop. An ex-forces Christopher Lambert and his Sharon Stone-esque girlfriend are attempting to illegally cross the US border in order to have a second child. Due to population problems in 2017, couples are allowed only one child. Try it twice and you’re crudely referred to as a “breeder”. As it turns out, they are pretty stupid to try it, especially considering the penalty for being caught is a life-sentence in an underground futuristic prison monitored by a wicked AI. A place where upon arrival, inmates are force-fed an explosive metal device that prompts a violent gut eruption, should they accidentally walk on the wrong bit of floor. Yes, the guys in Shawshank had it easy.
While it lacks the humour and off-the-wall craziness of a Paul Verhoeven feature, it functions surprisingly well as lower tier release. That said, you’ll need only the smallest amount of brain power, as what begins and builds intriguingly, steadily deteriorates to the usual routine of loud gunfire and daft heroics.
Things are lifted by the villanous presence of Kurtwood Smith (baddie in RoboCop) as the nutjob prison director. His relationship with the female-voiced AI system (Zed-10) which polices the prison, suggests an unusual intimacy that gives the film a welcome air of creepiness. Couple his voyerism (technology allows him to spy on the inmates’ erotic dreams), and an increasing interest in gaining the companionship of Christopher Lambert’s heavily pregnant, Sharon Stone-esque wife, and the film promises to find some of its own individuality. If only the script were better aligned to delve deeper into this aspect of the story…
As well as spawning a sequel, Fortress has amassed a respectable cult following over the years. I wonder if part of the reason behind that is because those who enjoy it can see the bare bones of a better film fighting to get out. 2.5/5