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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.77%
Worth A Look: 24.56%
Average: 24.56%
Pretty Bad36.84%
Total Crap: 5.26%

5 reviews, 27 user ratings

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Last Castle, The
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by Erik Childress

"Crossbows and Catapults"
2 stars

As little boys we all love to play war. We take our phaser guns and cap pistols playing Bang Bang and arguing over who got shot first. Eventually times change. Games become known as Cowboys and Native-Americans and us boys grow up and take our warrior mentality escaping into movies such as Braveheart and Die Hard. Sounds like an interesting metaphor for a movie about soldiers, doesn’t it? I wish someone would have suggested it to the creators of The Last Castle, a howler of a prison movie about a dick-wagging contest supported by a group of grown-up boys still longing to play with their toys in the sand.

General Irwin (Robert Redford), a three-star Army General has pled guilty at the beginning of his Court Martial and is sentenced to ten years in a military prison. In virtual awe of his presence is the prison’s warden, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). “They should be naming a base after him,” he says before giving him a tour of the facility and offering him lemonade. Winter seems all but ready to offer Irwin his sister when he hears the General, behind his back no less, make an offhanded comment about Winter’s military memorabilia collection being a substitute for battlefield experience. Shame on him for hurting the Colonel’s feelings.

Irwin slowly starts to meet his fellow inmates, all of them acutely aware of the legend at their side. The first to pay salute is former Marine Aguilar (Clifton Collins Jr.), a meek stuttering little fellow (the second soldier this year after Pearl Harbor). His antics certainly don’t suggest Corps material and while the script tells us why he was kicked out, I was more interested in how he possibly got in. Oh, hold on and stand at attention – saluting is not allowed amongst the prisoners resulting in various punishments that Irwin witnesses first hand, leading him to believe the grapevine tales he’s been hearing.

The audience is then bullied into an un-intellectual submission to rally along with Irwin and his increasing army against the Colonel and his brutal tactics. But ask yourself if what Winter does is so bad. Aguilar is warned repeatedly about saluting Irwin and is finally submitted to doing it all night long in the biggest rainstorm since the days of Noah. Irwin grabs a prison official and is forced to move 25-pound rocks from one side of the prison to the other, in a ridiculously silly scene designed to rouse the prisoners to Irwin’s side, but makes you long for Redford’s long-lost co-star Paul Newman and a pot full of eggs.

Forget for a moment that the security within the prison is pretty laxed as inmates can roam cell-to-cell freely to play Chess and razors are fair game for shaving. Sadistic is an adjective that wouldn’t come within a hundred clicks to reasonably describe Winter. He may be a tad unexperienced (and inept) when the prison uprising comes full circle, but how did things survive for so long before The Sundance Kid rode into town? His biggest sin may come with his predictable reaction to the men finally getting all those rocks up in the middle of the courtyard to form a wall. The point of the wall? Apparently just to give the men something to do. So the script would have us believe that these stones, sitting there presumably since the 19th century, couldn’t have been made into a wall sooner, even if just under Winter’s reign as King? Prison life was more believable in Sylvester Stallone’s “Lock Up.”

The screenplay (by David Scarpa and Graham Yost) is all over the battlefield. Every character is a one-note cliché and their motivations change in a edit’s moment, especially that of the prison’s resident Morgan Freeman character, played by Mark Ruffalo, who followed in his daddy’s patriotic footsteps (under the command of Irwin), but is less eager to join in the rebellion. Ruffalo’s performance is proof that an actor’s talent should not be judged solely on a single role (in last year’s terrific “You Can Count On Me”).

The Last Castle can be called a realistic movie no more than a game of Lazer Tag can compare to the invasion of Normandy. The guards in the prison use rubber bullets. Yes, rubber bullets. Why not go the full nine yards and use paintballs? They could have one helluva Army/Navy game while their opponents fire back at them using elaborate prison-made slingshots and a very cool catapult, that they managed to somehow build…and hide. Too bad they didn’t have more time, they could have shaped it into a horse.

Director Rod Lurie, who wrote his previous two directorial efforts (Deterrence & The Contender) should have taken a stab at the draft himself. Obviously out to prove that he can be a real director too, he gives us more dioptic shots in the widescreen frame throughout the film than Brian DePalma with double vision. During one particular interior crisis, the threat of Tear Gas is offered. Why it’s not even mentioned during the final battle can only be attributed to two things. (1) The revolt would be over too quickly and (2) I guess you don’t need Tear Gas when you play the patriotism card in the act of martyrdom. As one of the guards so accurately puts, who needs hearts and minds when you’ve got ‘em by the balls. Lurie’s last movie ended with the dedication “For Our Daughters”. The Last Castle may as well have ended with “For Our Sons”, because this is obviously a film made for and about boys who haven’t yet grown up…to recognize what a good movie is.

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originally posted: 10/18/01 08:10:07
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User Comments

10/18/11 KingNeutron Great film - very underrated, good performances by Redford and Gandolfini 5 stars
6/25/07 --- Ok exactly why are we supposed to be rooting for the prisoners? 2 stars
6/18/06 jal hey, the movie is a meaphor for an american police state, seriously, get educated 5 stars
8/17/05 ES Brilliant, start to finish a great movie, with a geat cast 5 stars
10/09/04 Odysseus I was pretty bored most of the time 3 stars
9/22/03 kill quacky this movie is 75 of 100 4 stars
7/15/03 JoeSco Very watchable apart from last quarter - Gandolfini underlines his class 4 stars
6/10/03 Francis good until the last 20 minutes which were silly 3 stars
12/03/02 Gazza E Interesting comments about leaders and followers...but in the end a prison movie 3 stars
7/12/02 KMG This movie rocked...and Redford showed up Tony Soprano 4 stars
5/30/02 davey mac assembly line generic crap....just like every other movie 2 stars
5/23/02 Crys Just to See Ruffalo 4 stars
5/23/02 Kyle Cliched shit. 1 stars
3/12/02 Crazy Bull Exciting, Intense, Feel-Good, Unrealistic 3 stars
2/26/02 Hans the Otter American Flag crap. Brian Goodman has an awsome hairy chest thought... 2 stars
2/20/02 Xaver The story kept me interested. 4 stars
1/07/02 Zebra Pretty Good 5 stars
1/03/02 Turtle A very entertaining and enthralling view of the Amercian people's rights. Great action! 4 stars
12/12/01 TG Who the hell is Brian Goodman,,,sexy and vulnerable...woof 5 stars
11/28/01 KMG This movie was pretty fucking entertaining....yes Soprano was miscast 4 stars
11/27/01 Ian Barr Errr... Love that rocket launcher substitute! 3 stars
11/22/01 steve goldenbaum Redford has skin like Melba Toast and one fucking shitty movie defined Tony soprano's caree 1 stars
11/10/01 Obi Wan Sorry, but I can't see James Galdofini out of his type casted rolls, he was outta place!! 3 stars
11/05/01 Bill Wyman Brian Goodman was the only real charector! 4 stars
10/31/01 Kristen Mark Ruffalo brings out the best in this mediocre movie 3 stars
10/27/01 Cheese Monkey God bless America (repeat for 2 hours, then puke) 1 stars
10/23/01 spaceworm How soon did YOU realize he was going to fly the flag right-side up? 3 stars
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  19-Oct-2001 (R)



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