78 user 74 critic

Fortress (1992)

In a future, private underground prison/Fortress, the inmates are computer controlled with CCTV, dream readers and devices that can cause pain or death. John and his illegally pregnant wife are inside but want to escape before birth.


Stuart Gordon


Troy Neighbors (story), Steven Feinberg (story) | 4 more credits »
2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Lambert ... John Henry Brennick
Kurtwood Smith ... Prison Director Poe
Loryn Locklin ... Karen B. Brennick
Clifton Collins Jr. ... Nino Gomez (as Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez)
Lincoln Kilpatrick ... Abraham
Jeffrey Combs ... D-Day
Tom Towles ... Stiggs
Vernon Wells ... Maddox
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon ... Zed-10 (voice)
Alan Zitner Alan Zitner ... Claustrophobic Prisoner
Deni Gordon Deni Gordon ... Karen's Cellmate
Eric Briant Wells Eric Briant Wells ... Border Guard
Dragicia Debert Dragicia Debert ... Bio Scanner Guard
Heidi Stein Heidi Stein ... Pregnant Woman
Harry Nurmi Harry Nurmi ... Guard #1


In 2017, John Henry Brennick and his wife Karen are captured at a US immigration point with an illegal baby during population control. The resulting prison experience is the subject of the movie. The prison is run by a private corporation bent on mind control. Written by Mark Allyn <allyn@netcom.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In the year 2017 one corporation is building a fortress for the ultimate takeover... your mind. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and language, and for sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


In D-Day's backstory: D-Day was an electronics expert and bank robber. During a bank raid, which he had blown up a bank vault with explosives, which he had accidentally set the money on fire. D-Day's partners unhappy with him for blowing up their loot, betrayed D-Day and they turned him over to the authorities and D-Day was sent to The Fortress. D-Day's backstory is almost similar to that of Frank Warren, the main protagonist of another futuristic prison flick Wedlock (1991) played in that film by Rutger Hauer. In that film, Frank Warren, an electronics expert and diamond thief steals a fortune in diamonds. But, Warren is betrayed by his partners Sam and Noelle and they turn him over to the authorities and Warren is sent to the experimental prison Camp Holiday. See more »


While passing the supposed US/Mexican border, there are signs in English and Spanish saying that it is a crime to cross the border. However, the English sign has the word "offence" (as it would be spelled in Australia, where the film was made). See more »


Stiggs, Maddox's Buddy: Smart fish! Very smart.
Stiggs, Maddox's Buddy: You know, the two of you gotta pay the rent.
John Henry Brennick: I do my own time.
Stiggs, Maddox's Buddy: There's all kinds of time. Think about it: you don't pay the rent, me and Maddox come and get it.
John Henry Brennick: [to D-Day] That you?
Stiggs, Maddox's Buddy: [laughs] No. Maddox is hard to miss. He's got a 187 tattooed on his forehead. Do you know what 187 means, fish?
John Henry Brennick: Bet it's not your IQ.
Nino Gomez: 187, murder statute. He's doing the big biz.
Stiggs, Maddox's Buddy: So maybe you want to pay the rent after all.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In the TV2 broadcast of the film in New Zealand, Maddox's graphic death was removed. It cuts from Maddox being blasted in the stomach to Brennick's reaction when Maddox falls to his death and Brennick gouging his eyes in the mind wipe sequence is removed and is cut from Brennick screaming to the next scene and all 'F' words are removed. See more »


References The Great Escape (1963) See more »


Die Kunst Der Fuge BWV 1080 Contrapunctus 3
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performed by Bell'Arte Ensemble
See more »

User Reviews

Surprisingly good for a cheap 90's action film
22 March 2014 | by DoubleJayBeeSee all my reviews

I'll get this out of the way first: the budget of this film isn't fantastic. Nearly all of the action takes place in the titular Fortress, which consists of a handful of sets used two or three times over. There is also a truly awful make up job - a 'tattoo' that more resembles an enthusiastic black marker.

That aside...

Despite said bad make up, Fortress features some extremely good practical effects. While avoiding spoilers, some very messy deaths are involved with characters being literally blown apart. These look frankly fantastic, especially (as I'm sure you've heard from every other critic ever) compared to CGI deaths in PG-13 films today. There's something visceral and authentic about them...the idea that what you're seeing is really happening.

And despite being restricted to one location, Fortress certainly makes the most of what it has. The Fortress is very well designed, packed with containment systems that the protagonist turns against it. Granted, there is some silliness involved - apparently, there is only one non-lethal way to subdue prisoners, and after that it's straight on to 'blow-to-bits'. But -and this is important- all of it is for a reason. You don't get the sense that something is there just to facilitate someone using it to escape, and indeed the design appears to be based on a real-life idea from Britain - the Panopticon, emphasising prisoners' fear of being watched more than actual effort spent watching them.

Characters, then. Honestly, Christopher Lambert's acting is the worst part of the film. In fact, I get the impression that a certain sequence was made just for him, since all he needs to do is zone out for a few hours. It's as if his batteries ran out one day, but the crew had to keep filming so they quickly wrote in an in-story excuse. His character isn't that interesting either - ex-army, highly decorated, a typical 90s interchangeable backstory with little impact on the plot. However, this is more than made up for by the antagonist, Prison Director Poe.

Unlike normal villains of the genre, Poe isn't a cartoon character given form - indeed, Kurtwood Smith is rather subdued even by normal villain standards, contrasting with his earlier role as Clarence Boddicker. And also unlike Boddicker, Poe's actually a fairly interesting character - though an aloof, even sadistic Warden, we do see what little personal life he has, and are continually reminded in his scenes that he's still a person - he has tastes, even loves, and by the end of the film it's not even clear whether he's the real bad guy. The rest of the supporting cast do an okay job - I can't think of a stand out performance though everyone does their jobs well. Honourable mention goes to the writers and the director for giving a female character many good action scenes and half of a subplot, even when it would have been incredibly easy to neglect her as post-victory booty.

The setting, I should mention, has a very nice atmosphere. Too many films forget that these days, instead going for a more realistic, bland appearance - comparing the first and second of Nolan's Batman trilogy shows it blatantly. Fortress has a dark, smoky look, which helps greatly both to maintain an oppressive, cyberpunk feel, and hide bad FX which is a nice bonus.

This isn't a 'bad but fun film' in my opinion, though some may see it that way. It has that look, sure, and if the creators had cast Arnie in the role then it well may have turned out like that. But it has some depth - beyond the exploding bodies and in places absent acting there is thought. If anything, I'd liken it to a Paul Verhoeven film - entertaining, but still immersive, maybe even though provoking.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

3 September 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Fortress See more »

Filming Locations:

Queensland, Australia


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,040,711, 6 September 1993

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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