The Last Castle (2001)
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Review Date: October 17, 2001
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: David Scarpa, Graham Yost
Producers: Robert Lawrence
Robert Redford as General Irwin
James Gandolfini as Colonel Winter
Mark Ruffalo
A well-decorated American hero pleads guilty to a crime and is sent to "The Last Castle" military prison. While incarcerated, the man finds out that the warden of his jail isn't playing by the rules, and decides to take it upon himself, to rally the rest of the criminals and take over the facility. Oooookay!
Any movie that expects us to root for the criminals, had better do a damn good job of making us feel sorry for them or making someone else look much, much worse, two points, which this film doesn't accomplish. Also, when a 2-minute movie trailer can tell you almost everything you need to know about a 2-hour film, how exciting can things really get? That's not to say that this is a bad movie, but it's not a good one either. It's basically a pretty generic prison flick, with problems. The biggest problems that I had with it, included three in particular (these are plot points, so skip them if not interested): 1) Does every single inmate have to be so nice?? The last time I checked, this movie was taking place in a prison. A home for killers, rapists, men who deal drugs and all other types of nastiness. Does every single one of them have to have a heart of gold? Pretty unbelievable. 2) Does killing a murderer in prison because he didn't listen to an order, require an entire jail of people to rise up and destroy tens of millions of dollars worth of government property, hurt and kill guards, just to make a point? (of course, the film doesn't really show us any real "deaths" during the last sequence, but many are logically implied) Why didn't Redford just keep peacefully negotiating an investigation of the prison through his military friend on the outside? I thought their reaction was over-the-top and definitely unnecessary. 3) And how in God's name did these prisoners organize such a tactful, precise and material-heavy invasion, without one of the guards picking up on it, or another prisoner snitching? Once again, completely unbelievable.

But the film isn't a complete waste, in fact, for the most part, it's pretty interesting. Sure, I disagreed with and didn't buy some of the things that they did in the movie and I didn't sympathize much with the prisoners, but on the whole, it was still somewhat entertaining, especially the last half hour, which is the overthrow of the prison. Robert Redford was also pretty good, although all he really had to do was look stoic and be Robert Redford. I bought him as a hero and went from there. Gandolfini was the other pawn in the game, and he was more difficult to rate (I always see Gandolfini as "Gandolfini" in many of his roles), but did break out of his basic acting mold here. His character had a very particular way of breathing, which helped the role, and I also liked the classical music that he always played in the background, and his anal-retentive nature. The rest of the chain-gang was "okay", but honestly, didn't have much depth to them. Only Ruffalo was given a little bit of it, but simply not enough to care about. I think you will either enjoy or not enjoy this movie depending on your sympathy towards its characters. The girlie-girl who came to see this flick with me, loved it and was pretty excited during its final few scenes. I didn't care much for it, because I didn't care much for the cause of the prisoners', and certainly didn't think that their retaliation was believable or required.

But the film does have a good pace and a touching patriotic effect attached to its conclusion, which is why I would sorta recommend that you catch it on video, if it looks interesting to you. I will also go on record as to say that perhaps this wasn't the right "timing" for this movie though (at least for me). I simply could not find much compassion in my heart for these murderers, despite the so-called wrong-doings inflicted upon them. Sorry dude...two wrongs do not a right make. Barely passable popcorn, but highly flawed as a serious drama.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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