Robert Redford has been pretty much dormant for the last few years, but for some reason the fall of 2001 seemed to be packed with him, patriotism in mind. In November he worked for the CIA in Spy Game, but in October he was a three-star general convicted to prison in The Last Castle. The result is a little more entertaining than expected, but not much else surprising.
Redford just wants to sit out his ten years in prison so he can go home to his family again, but when he realizes that the rumors are true about the prison's warden ("The Sopranos"' James Gandolfini) killing inmates, he decides to march the inmates and take over the prison. Is it believable that a general would lead a bunch of prisoners against a prison? No, since as most generals would know the most logical way to succeed is through diplomacy, such as contacting some of their connections in Washington. But is it entertaining? As the second half of the movie proves, yes.
The second half of the movie is great. Despite some overly melodramatic salute scenes, the second half races along at a blazing pace. Redford leads his "troops" against the corrupt warden, playing out tactics much like one would on the battlefield. The intelligence of the attack if fun to watch, not to mention the actual attack. If the whole movie was like this, I would have easily enjoyed The Last Castle a lot more. Unfortunately...
The first half is slow, boring, and poorly written. I wasn't exactly squirming in my seat, but I wasn't sitting on the edge of it, either, and I was pretty annoyed by the quality of the film I was watching. The Last Castle basically involves Redford spitting out slightly comical lines with serious undertones and Gandolfini puking out lines defending his style of authority. Both are good actors, but they are not very impressive here, and the script doesn't help. Most of the things the men say do not make sense in the context they are saying them in, and pretty much everything they say seems awkward. It seemed as though both actors were trying to be overly careful in articulating every word of their dialogue, which takes away from their acting skill and the believability of the movie. By the time The Last Castle reached the climax, I was willing to give this movie quite a nasty review.
Luckily, the second half saves the film, but it only can climb so deep out of the hole that has been dug. The Last Castle is a flawed movie, to say the least, but the riot scene is something to behold, and that makes it all worth it.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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