14 user 10 critic

Against the Wall (1994)

Based on the true story of the Attica Prison uprising of 1971.


John Frankenheimer


Ron Hutchinson
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Kyle MacLachlan ... Michael Smith
Samuel L. Jackson ... Jamaal
Clarence Williams III ... Chaka
Frederic Forrest ... Weisbad
Harry Dean Stanton ... Hal
Philip Bosco ... Oswald
Tom Bower ... Ed
Anne Heche ... Sharon
Carmen Argenziano ... Mancusi
Peter Murnik ... Jess
Steve Harris ... Cecil
David Ackroyd ... William Kuntsler
Mark Cabus ... Ken
Bruce Evers Bruce Evers ... Yates
Joey Anderson Joey Anderson ... Mrs. Willis


Based on the true story of the uprising at Attica Prison in 1971. Michael Smith, a new recruit to the prison service, along with several of his colleagues get caught up in a prison riot fueled by bad prison management and a lack of understanding by the guards Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a graphic depiction of a prison uprising, and for some strong language. | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Filmed at the former Tennessee state main prison, which opened in 1898, and closed in 1992. See more »


Chaka: Hot soup, mother fucker!
See more »


Referenced in Welcome to Twin Peaks (1997) See more »

User Reviews

When the Bough Breaks
20 July 2020 | by view_and_reviewSee all my reviews

The first time I can even remember hearing the word Attica was in the movie "Dog Day Afternoon." I had no idea what Al Pacino meant when he was repeatedly shouting "Attica! Attica! Attica!" I later found out that Attica was a prison in New York, and last year I read the Pulitzer Prize winning book "Blood in the Water" about the Attica uprising and retaking.

"Against the Wall" focuses a lot on one guard, Michael Smith (Kyle MacLachlan) and one prisoner, Jamaal X (Samuel L. Jackson) aka Richard X Clark. Attica prison was a powder keg ready to blow and only needed the right situation to detonate. That situation came and what started as a small fracas from a few dozen inmates quickly became a prison-wide takeover.

Because the movie focuses so much on two individuals, we don't get a firm sense of the overall atmosphere--in America, in the prisons, in New York, or even in the city of Attica. Of course, a movie is limited in its ability to be encompassing, which is a bit of a drawback. And what movies in general also suffer from is dramatizations. In this case, "Against the Wall" makes the entire ordeal a lot bloodier than it really was. One only need to watch the documentary titled: "Attica" (1974). Although a few hostages were harmed, the more intelligent prisoners realized immediately that the hostages were their only bargaining chips and should they be harmed--or worse, killed--then the prisoners lost all leverage. For that reason they treated the hostages better than themselves.

I knew ahead of time what the end result would be in this movie, it was just a matter of how it would all be portrayed. Writer, Ron Hutchinson, and director, John Frankenheimer, did an OK portrayal from what I've read and seen elsewhere. The bottom line is that the Attica uprising and takeover was an ugly spot in American history, but it's one we shouldn't forget.

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Release Date:

26 March 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Against the Wall See more »

Filming Locations:

Tennessee, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

HBO Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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