The Last Castle (2001)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Prison Film  |   Release Date - Oct 19, 2001 (USA)  |   Run Time - 132 min.  |   Countries - Belgium , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

The Last Castle tries to cram in several genres, most obviously the military movie and the prison drama. But in a sense, it's really like one of those old-fashioned kung fu movies -- if the villain dispatched his ninja henchmen all at once, instead of letting each politely take his turn in one-on-one combat, the hero would be a lot easier vanquished. Hence, The Last Castle is pretty incredible, as James Gandolfini's corrupt colonel loses control of his prison because of a tactical error inspired by foolish pride -- he fails to use his considerable advantage, which he wields unmercifully the rest of the movie, and lets an improbable succession of small victories snowball into total chaos. The previous sentence does not contain any real spoilers if you watched this film's trailers, which set up Robert Redford as a decorated general sentenced to prison, who incites his fellow prisoners to fight injustice within prison walls. Rod Lurie's film has some suspenseful moments, some decently staged actions scenes, some watchable performances, and a couple moments that anger the blood the way The Shawshank Redemption does throughout. But this is no Shawshank -- for many reasons, not the least of which is that David Scarpa and Graham Yost's script naïvely smoothes out prison's rough edges. Sure, there are several incidents of brutality, but the day-to-day existence is portrayed with a squeamish aversion to anything distasteful -- no rapes, very little racism, and a sense that merely having served in the military means the prisoners are saints just waiting to blossom. Viewers who get chills from the recitation of "Sir, yes sir!" and a roundabout sense of patriotism will probably like The Last Castle. But for most others, it just won't ring true.