Stuart Gordon is one of the best directors on the planet in my opinion. His movies all kick ass. For me, he's one of the best at making movies with highly ambitious concepts on small budgets. Sure, his movies look very ''B'' but that's what's so good about them. Fortress, like most Gordon movies, is an underrated gem with a great cast that includes Christopher Lambert (The Highlander), Kurtwood Smith (Robocop & That 70's Show) and Jefferey Combs (Re-Animator and the underrated Necronomicon).
Fortress is one of many great movies that makes the future look like a corrupt, unforgiving place. In this future, population control has been put in place and if you break the rules then you get sent to Fortress, a prison run by the sadistic Poe (Smith) who treats the prisoners like guinea pigs for mind control experiments and kills anyone who gets out of line. Christopher Lambert plays Brennick, sent to prison for trying to escape the country along with his wife to evade population control. The film is the classic escape from prison movie tale only set in the future.
Originally, Fortress was set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead and because of Arnie's star power, Gordon was going to receive a 60 million budget. However, when Arnie pulled out the budget was lowered to 12 million. Gordon is no stranger to a small budget though and like all of his movies, he made the most of it. The cast has some B movie favorites and for me. Christopher Lambert is great as the lead. Lambert has never been the greatest actor ever, but he's capable and cool. I love Christopher Lambert. Kurtwood Smith is a great villain and does a terrific job as the prison director. He's emotionless, sadistic and his only entertainment comes through dastardly deeds. His performance is so cold and emotionless it's almost robotic (but not in the bad way like Channing Tatum). Jefferey Combs is an awkward, mumbling, paranoid hippie and is one of the most memorable characters in the film. Most of the supporting cast do a great job.
Fortress is a sci fi movie with brains, however, there is some blood here to quench the thirst (my favorite part is the prison brawl and the climatic chest explosion). There's a fine balance between action, psychology and story and it's perfectly paced. Fortress is an intelligent B movie with action and intelligence. It has some great underlying themes such as the corruption of government and the fast growth of technology, as well as a bleak view on the future. I love Fortress and if you give it a chance, I'm sure you will too.