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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Last Castle was a good movie - until it got pillow-fartingly
A military prison. Warden: Tony Soprano. (Anyone who writes to me, explaining the distinction between an actor's character name and his real name will get a reply explaining the distinction between hebetude and tongue-in-cheek.) New inmate: profusely-decorated 3-star general Robert Redford. Theme: Battle-theorist (Tony, battle memorabilia collector) versus battle veteran (Redford, whose field credits include the Gulf and other inane political coups). Premise: Inmate Redford takes a dislike to the way Warden Tony disses his marine and army peeps behind bars, so launches a prison revolt, inmates rallying behind him due to his iron-fisted reputation and rakish good looks.
Let the farce begin.
Requisite character stereotypes abound: Aguilar, the dim bulb; Yates, the amoral prison bookie; the fallen-from-grace doctor, the big black guy, the big white guy, the big guy of uncertain ethnic descent and the token Latino guy. Redford coaxes The Patriot from this ragtag band of uncertain heroes, twisting Tony's panties into cat's cradles in the process.
For we who came to see Tony Soprano bust a move other than his renowned Gansta Rap, we were not prepared for the impotent swab his warden character turned out to be - even as a 'character actor playing against type', Tony was reined in by director Joe Lurie to such an extent that even when the situation warranted explosive retaliation during the siege, Tony simply sulked around his crumbling office in a prissy rage.
Saluting is not allowed amongst prisoners in a military prison - something to do with loss of rank and lack of hairspray. Redford's clichéd one-liners evokes inmate-saluting soon enough, causing big trouble in Little Italy. Which leads to Redford's punishment: to bare his virile, octogenarian man-torso (we're talking' carpet-chest that makes Paul Stanley's look like a bowling green) and to move a pile of rocks from here to there. With his blond ambition and undeniable desirability to prison men of all persuasions, Redford turns this punishment into yet another spectacle with which to win over the hearts of his fellow crims.
All the philosophy, chess-playing and tough love comes from the convicted criminal in this film - Redford - so the viewer is cajoled into rooting for the WRONG side. The attempts at tear-jerking and patriotism and brotherhood are completely misplaced by the fact that this bake sale is held - in a JAIL. And the good guys.are the bad guys. When was the last time you supported a prison revolt, replete with murder and destruction of taxpayer property, cheering on the cons in their noble cause to usurp authority?
Redford uses Tony's own armaments against him; the water-cannon, the trebuchet (the wha-?). This last weapon turned up out of nowhere, like Monty Python's Trojan Rabbit, when the plot had degenerated to guys running around and burning things, and the director thought no one would notice the appearance of a construct that literally cannot be hidden anywhere on prison grounds. (The Great Escape this ain't.) Checkmate is to capture the warden's American flag and fly it upside down, which denotes a distress signal, a concept which they make abundantly clear through the dialog of about twenty people. Okay - I heard you the SEVENTH time - so if the American flag winds up flying upside down, nobody's a terrorist or anti-American - sheesh!
To cap this farce with the seal of disbelief, these guys don't even want to escape - they just want another warden. I got news for you, guys: the warden may change, but the JOB-DESCRIPTION remains the same, i.e. it's his DUTY to retain your low self-esteem, disorientation and to KEEP YOU IN JAIL. Changing the management amounts to nothing more than amending the names on the doors and letterheads. Of all people, you military perps should understand that in contravening The System's laws, you yourselves have empowered The System to isolate you from it.
A prison is NOT a democracy - at least, not the last time I was in one. Since when do we grant prisoners the expertise to diagnose anti-social behavior in a warden? Or the inalienable right to OVERTHROW the prison if they "don't like the conditions"? Yeh, jail sucks - it's meant to!
In the final scene, Redford flashbacks to his Sundance Kid days, as an army trains their rifles on him in the rec yard, waiting for the word from Don Soprano to bake his ziti. Redford carries the folded flag stolen from Tony's office, and word on the street was that he was gonna raise that puppy upside down, thereby broadcasting Tony's incompetence to the Five Families. So Tony must stop him at all costs; he faces Redford, staunchly: 'Give me back my flag!'
Redford: 'It's not 'your' flag.' Ouch! - now that was so patriotic, it made my thighs supple. Sundance strides to the flagpole and resolutely starts raising the flag, as Tony is screaming at his men to shoot him down - but of course, each rifleman's dreams were now rife with frolicking in that snowy-white chest-jungle with the blue-eyed avenger-general who defied a mob boss. They lower their weapons - and it is up to The Jersey Godfather to whack Boy Redford. Of course, he is arrested immediately by his lieutenant; something to do with The Law - The Law which they suddenly want to adhere to, after not giving it a moment's thought during the last hour's siege.
Camera pans up the flagpole and - the flag is flying, proud and true - RIGHT SIDE UP. And the convicts salute it. And the guards salute it. And the music swells, as Redford dies with a smile, flag fluttering in battle-smoke breeze, cheese glutting all Exit doors.
Probably the best advice one could offer to someone contemplating viewing this movie - Fuggedaboudit!
(Movie Maniacs, visit: www.poffysmoviemania.com)
Redford's ability to fade into a character is profound. Sometimes an actor who has been in the business a very long time will become larger than any role he plays... John Wayne for example (with a couple of exceptions). He becomes Eugene Irwin in this movie. This movie isn't about Redford's character, just like "The Legend of Bagger Vance" isn't really about Bagger Vance. The Last Castle is about honor to one's self and honor among soldiers, even if they are prisoners. James Gandolfini's portrayal of a colonel who knows nothing of this honor or brotherhood is excellent. He makes you despise his character. Colonel Winters is a deeply disturbing study of corrupt power and jealousy of others' glory. A fine ensemble cast of characters make this movie well worth watching.
I have eagerly awaited my chance to see The Last Castle. I thought the
previews looked interesting and at the very least I loved The Rock and think
Redford is great so I figured this movie would be good. Heck I almost
skipped paying the $4 rental fee to just buy the DVD. Glad I
Despite what others may believe, I feel that this movie strongly apes Shawshank Redemption and other heretofore well-tramped ground. We have a power-hungry, egocentric warden, a quiet, reserved new prisoner who was quite successful on the outside and whose previous life is known of by his inmates. And a struggle of wits, warden vs. prisoner plays out like a game of chess. Interesting to note, both Shawshank and Last Castle incorporate chess as the greatest battle of wits...I doubt the similarity is coincidental.
The acting is good...I won't take that away from the film. The characters are relatively believable and the actors handle their roles well. The problem with this film is that it relies too much on illogical or contradictory ideas to move itself along. Ok, first the title "the last castle" is contradicted again and again as Redford keeps saying that anywhere you raise the flag and say you can't take this away from me is a castle. It's almost the theme of the film and it directly contradicts the title...seems like a case of a line too good to throw out, even though it really does not fit.
Also, Redford demonstrates a great deal of respect to the warden but speaks very harshly of him when the warden is simply removed to the other room to grab a book to have signed. Redford criticizes the warden in a most uncivil way right in front of the warden and it just doesn't make sense...it's completely unlike the character to do so. But there has to be some animosity between the two and that was the easiest way to do it...illogical yes, but whatever gets the action moving, right? The guards are also painfully one-dimensional. We get a glimpse early on that the captain is a good guy forced to do bad things but all that we know of the snipers, etc. is that they enjoy shooting prisoners and that the warden enjoys manipulating everyone within the walls. A scene that showed them to be human, to have any feeling other than hate for prisoners, would make them far more believable and make the story that much better...again, this is an action movie and moving the story along fast is key: not a logical progression of events, not keeping the promise to show both sides of the story made in the opening scenes.
In short, this movie is woefully inconsistent. Is it filled with good action sequences, especially for a prison movie. Is it entertaining...sure, it's not bad. But as a film, a piece of art, it just does not pass muster...in their attempts to push this movie onto the screen the film makers simply left too much out and obviously did not spend enough time developing the script. It has so much potential and so little payoff. A 6 in my book.
This was probably one of the most under rated movies of 2001. I didn't have many expectations for it either. I am not a Robert Redford fan and I was not familiar with the work of James Gandolfini, but because I am an action fan and the trailer made this out to look like a not to bad action movie I decided to pick it up. The problem with most action movies that run over two hours is that they usually become boring and bogged down with confusing plot twists that ruin the entertainment value. But this movie never once became boring, my eyes were glued to the screen the whole time. Redford and Gandolfini lit up the screen with red hot performances that kept you at the edge of your seat. This movie has everything you could ask for in an action movie, strong performances, strong script, beautifuly directed action sequences and dare I say it, a few touching moments. Redford plays a war hero who is sent to a prision for war verterians. He then plans an uprising against the corrupt prision guard. Your heart will instantly go out to a shy inmate who was accused of beating someone to death with a hammer. The film also has some of the most mouth dropping action scenes that I've seen in a long time. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. So whether you are a fan of prision movies like The Shawshank Redemption or Fortress or a hardened action fan this movie will not dissapoint. I rank this film as one of the best of 2001 along side Made.
A prisoner's fantasy: decorated U.S. General Robert Redford has been Court Marshalled for disobeying orders during wartime--which resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers--and is sent to a prison for violent criminals (!). He immediately gets on the wrong side of warden James Gandolfini and rallies the inmates to take control of the yard. Fairly typical genre picture with all the usual details, including the stuttering innocent whose bad treatment becomes a catalyst in the warring sides. The film is well-cast and has some fine passages, yet the heavy symbolism (with flying flags, chess moves and endless talk of castles) comes off as self-important in a movie which uses its entire second half to allow violent criminals to run roughshod over security. Redford gives a modest, self-effacing performance--he's so noble he's like visiting royalty; Gandolfini plays his Colonel like an offended child, affecting a soft but precise, lispy voice, giving the one-dimensional role some unexpected subtext. The handsomely photographed film looks great and works its way slyly on the viewer until all defenses are down, but in retrospect its earnestness seems woefully silly. **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film starts with some information on castles : They`ve been around
a thousand years , they contained garrisons and flags and were built to
out intruders . Yes indeed I can confirm this , castles are very old and
they were built to keep people out . As THE LAST CASTLE continues we learn
lots of other interesting information like bullets can travel very fast
can kill you ( No sh*t ) and where saluting comes from . What I didn`t
was anything about the military prison where it`s set or about the inmates
which is a major disadvantage seeing as the movie revolves around a
I`ve no idea how the United States treats servicemen who`ve fallen foul of the law , but I do know how Britain treats hers . In Britain servicemen commiting minor infractions are usually sent to the " Glasshouse " ( Every military base has its own ) while for more serious disciplinary matters like testing positive for drugs or going AWOL British servicemen are sent to the military prison at Colchester for a period ranging from a few days to several months after which they`re returned to their regiment or discharched from the military . For more serious crimes like murder , rape etc servicemen are sentanced by a civilian court of law and this is what confused me about THE LAST CASTLE - Why are the inmates sentanced to many years in a military prison ? Wouldn`t they be sent to a state prison ? Not only that but if it`s a military prison wouldn`t it be a disciplined environment ? The one seen here is no different than any other one you see in cinema with all the inmates hanging around the yard , all aged in their mid 20s to late 40s and all hanging with their own ethnic groups . I often found myself forgetting this was a military prison for large chunks of time and was only reminded it was run by the military when the action cut to Col Winter`s office
!!!!! SPOILERS !!!!!
The actual plot of THE LAST CASTLE is about the battle of wills between the prison commander Col Winter and new arrival General Irwin . Irwin was a hero from Vietnam ( I wonder if he`s based on John McCain ? ) who upsets Winter by stating that because he collects all sorts of military memorabillia Winter couldn`t have served on a battlefield which understandably upsets Winter because it`s a bizarre comment to make . Let`s see now absolutely no one in history who collects military artifacts has never been in the field ! I won`t bother to point out how inaccurate this sweeping generalization is except to say it`s used to set up the battle of wills in a very weak example of scripting . And the more the story goes on the more aware you become that the production team have little knowledge of military or political matters . It turns out Irwin was in charge of a mission to Burundi in central Africa which cost the lives of eight American soldiers and it`s this that led to him being sent down for ten years . Are you trying to tell me that if an American commander is in charge of a military mission that goes wrong he`ll find himself sent to prison for many years ? Well in that case General McArthur should have been sentanced to hundreds of years in prison for the Chinese intervention in Korea and General Westmoreland should have been shot for the Tet offensive . Did General Garrison do time in prison for the events in BLACK HAWK DOWN ? Oh and it should be pointed out that America never intervened in Burundi , just thought I`d point that out . But it goes from bad to worse as General Irwin leads his men on a prison revolt ( Bet you couldn`t see that coming chaps ? ) where the inmates reveal right out of the blue a siege engine . " What`s that ? " Col Winter shrieks . A siege engine , a catapult to be more accurate , a catapult that must stand thirty foot high that none of the guards seem to have noticed , isn`t there a minimum eye sight requirement in the American military ? Just curious since no one seems to have noticed a thirty foot catapult standing around . Perhaps Hollywood should bring in a basic intelligence test for its screenwriters ?
I won`t bother telling you how the story ends except to say if you can reach the end credits without turning off you deserve some sort of medal for watching a movie above and beyond the call of duty
Despite the setting, this movie has little to do with prisons. Rod Lurie's vision, combined with the extraordinary talents of Robert Redford and James Gandolfini, is a morality play set in the most unlikely of locations. We have a man who has risen to the height of his potential, the Colonel, who will never advance above that rank, and is bitter with his role in life. He is an administrator among soldiers who wanted to be a soldier and was instead given the task of maintaining order at a prison. That he could show leadership by helping these men to regain their self respect and dignity has escaped him, and he is content to amuse himself by creating situations which lead to the prisoners becoming the animals he believes them to be. When the General comes to his prison, he thinks he has found a kindred spirit who can appreciate his manipulation of the men. To his disappointment, he finds the General a thoughtful and honorable soldier who has chosen to accept his punishment without excuse or explanation. While the Colonel must fight to maintain control, his methods and his intellect lack humanity and understanding. The General is given control by the prisoners because of his intellect and understanding. He offers the prisoners the one thing the warden cannot, dignity. Rated R for language and violence, this film is not for everyone, and certainly not for the very young. It is, however, an essential element in the creation of a leader, and should be seen by anyone who aspires to lead.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the funniest films I've seen in a long time - but unfortunately I don't think it's meant to be. From the forbidden salutes to jailed general Robert Redford - which prisoners get round by saluting and then smoothing down their hair - to the ridiculous siege weapons which the prisoners have somehow been able to make in the prison workshops. I mean, we know the director is trying to compare the prison riot to a medieval siege but do we really need all the prisoners running around with shields made of trays, bows and arrows and a trebuchet (oh yes). I was only waiting for the final swordfight between Redford and the warden to be shown as shadows cast on the prison wall. It's totally laughable and has one of the cheesiest endings you will ever see.
The Last Castle is a fine if somewhat predictable jail movie of redemption and determination against the odds. Having seen the previews I thought nothing of ever seeing the film, but saw it on the shelf in the video store and thought it would pass an evening.
It did that very well, and is worth seeing for at least one reason. Although Robert Redford puts in a solid performance, James Gandolfini steals this movie with his simpering, bully-boy performance. Despite knowing from the opening scene that he will undoubted lose against Redford's disgraced general, Gandolfini's depiction of a man in authority but with little power is very subtle and worth watching.
The rest of the film has some clever moments, but you see everything coming - Redford inspiring the other prisoners, the inevitable conflicts and the finale. The Last Castle is worth seeing once.
Most of the raves and pans you will read of this movie are equally true in
their own respects. For my money, the film's weaknesses slightly outweigh
its strengths but I can easily see someone else's scales tipping the other
The performances are splendid all around. Most especially, James Gandolfini (who had the inside track with the most richly drawn character) excels as the ambiguous villain who is actually right more than half the time.
The message which deals with the value of pride and the importance of identity and self-worth is certainly admirable. The fact that this occurs among men who have marred their own self-worth through violent crime makes the concept that much more interesting. It almost (but never quite) raises the idea of reclaiming integrity, once lost. If it had gone this extra mile, it may well have been a better film.
The weaknesses lie in the hundreds of stupid little inaccuracies which culminate into one stupid BIG inaccuracy: This place doesn't feel like a prison!
It is difficult to make a prison movie within ten years of 1994 without inviting comparisons to "The Shawshank Redemption." Rather than belaboring the obvious, I want to note one detail that is exemplary of the earlier film's superiority. Even the jolliest, funniest, most easy going prisoners in Shawshank had an underlying sense of danger about them. You didn't want to get on their bad side. You never doubt that they belong in prison (except, of course, for Andy Dufresne). But this is not so in "The Last Castle." No matter how often someone reads from a prisoner's file and discusses the horrible things he has done, none of the words, actions, or other moods conveyed by the men in this film make them seem in any way dangerous. Maybe it's a case of mass miscasting but I doubt it.
Compounding this problem is the lack of scholarship to be found in the little details. Robert Redford shaves with a safety razor in spite of the fact that no prisoner would be allowed such a tool. Razor blades, like belts and shoelaces, are potential suicide tools and, thus, prohibited in prisons. Also, people keep referring to an officer's side arm as his "gun" instead of his "weapon." These mistakes were easy to avoid and yet they remained in the film.
All of this makes a potentially fascinating film, filled with talent, seem a touch removed from reality. Like in "The Contender," director Rod Lurie has shown that his view of reality is based on his opinions rather than the other way around.
With all it had going for it, it's a shame really.
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