The Last Castle (2001) Rod Lurie

Production Budget: $72 million
Worldwide Gross $28 million

Ugh, I hate writing these.  And by “these” I mean movies that are neither good nor bad but just meh.  If something is really bad I can point to it being offensive or stupid.  If something is great I can single it out.  But when something is just so generic I can’t point to anything and say how unremarkable it is.  Well, scratch that, I guess I have to do it in this review then.

The Last Castle is about former General Irwin (Robert Redford) who goes to military prison when he refuses to follow an order which results in the death of 8 soldiers.  The prison is run by a cruel disciplinarian Col. Winter played by James Gandolfini.  Winter is so controlling he sometimes stages “accidents” which kill inmates to show a point.  Irwin learns of this and recruits the inmates as an army to remove Winter from power.

This whole movie is based on the chess game between Irwin and Winter.  There are a few problems with this though.  For one, I don’t like the casting of Gandolfini in this role.  He is supposed to be a wormy conniving intellectual to combat Redford’s natural charm and charisma.  Gandolfini is simply too big and physically imposing for the role he is trying to play.  Another problem is this really is no battle of wits here.  Redford’s character is always one step ahead at every point so there really is no drama or tension at all.  They also tend to paint the morality in the broadest of strokes.  Redford is Jesus Christ reincarnated and Gandolfini is almost playing Snidley Whiplash.  Sorry, I need a little more than he’s just plain evil.

We also make several leaps in logic and in the plot.  For most of the movie Redford  is deciding whether or not he wants to take down Winter and in the last act they stage the takeover.  The problem is we completely gloss over the fact Irwin somehow constructs firebombs, weapons, and a freaking trebuchet all under Winter’s nose!  I think we missed a few details here!

This movie isn’t bad though (or really bad).  I have now seen this twice now and both times it was okay I guess.  The action is somewhat satisfying and it’s a little interesting to essentially see Redford play the Cool Hand Luke role but it all comes off as a pale pale imitation.  This is another movie where I have no idea why it cost so much.  This is a movie set in a prison and that’s it.  Hell, there are dozens of DTV movies with no budget built around that whole premise.

So, yeah, that’s The Last Castle.  I could go without ever seeing it again but hey I understand if you might want to see this movie because of Redford.  For that, this isn’t too bad but for everyone else I don’t think its worth your time.


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