Fortress 2 (1999)


After discovering that one of my recently reviewed films – – had a sequel, I absolutely had to track it down and watch it. I can only assume it made a steady profit on home video, because 7 years is a long time to wait to make a second film, and I doubt Christopher Lambert was too busy in the intervening years.

In the world of the film, it’s about 10 years since the events of the first film, and John Brennick (Lambert) and his family are involved in some sort of resistance against the MenTel Corporation. I thought they’d escaped over the border, but perhaps MenTel bought Mexico in the intervening years. Brennick is re-captured pretty quickly after a group of rebels are tracked to his remote home, although he puts up a good fight, including blowing up a helicopter with a rocket launcher and collapsing a tunnel so his wife and kid can escape. He wakes up…back inside prison! There’s a twist here, though, and it’s a hell of a twist. A twist so big I need to start a new paragraph for it.

The prison is in space! It’s actually part-prison, part slave labour for some energy generator which will allegedly supply cheap electricity to the world. All the people from the resistance cell are there, along with some Russian mobster types. We even get a nice prison guard, played by the yellow-eyed demon from “Supernatural”, to go along with the psychopath prison guard, and a warden with an evil plan.

Now, I think picking apart the silliness of low-budget films is pretty low hanging comedy fruit when it comes to film reviews, but sometimes you just have to. The prison back on Earth was so secure that only one person ever escaped from it, so building an even more secure one in space seems overkill. Also, how much does it cost to transport a person to an orbiting space station? It just makes no sense, financial or otherwise. They let the prisoners kill each other too, which just adds to the financial waste of it all. There are a lot of fires on this space station – now, I’m no genius, but if you’ve got a finite amount of oxygen to keep people alive, then having a bunch of fires all over the place doesn’t seem like the most sensible idea ever. Also also also, whenever you see people in space you don’t seem them in huge high-ceilinged rooms, for all sorts of sensible science reasons. It’s like they built half the sets before anyone told them it was going to be set on an orbiting prison-cum-power station.

This is all important because it just strikes me as really lazy. There must have been someone in the production process who went “fires in space are a pretty bad idea, you know, guys” and at least one other person, higher up the food chain, who replied “who cares?” I’m a firm believer in films being able to be about anything at all, set anywhere at all, as long as they bother to think about it first and do a bit of world-building. I couldn’t shake the idea while watching this that the first Fortress must have made a decent profit on video over the years, so they decided to knock out a sequel using whoever was cheap and available.

As well as running the prison, the MenTel Corporation are after Lambert’s wife and son again. At one point, the warden and the evil guard are lusting after a picture of her, much like the warden from the first film ruining his career by bringing her into his quarters (even though she’s played by a different actress). I mean, she’s pretty and all, but to that extent? While that’s happening, Lambert and his new cell buddies, luckily with the same skillsets as in the first film, are plotting an escape. For such an impregnable place, their security is pretty lame, but if it weren’t it would be a dull film. “Fortress 2: Lambert Stays Locked Up This Time”. There’s plenty of distraction for the British viewer of this film, with the sheer number of former soap opera actors and other supporting players of stage and screen in it. You’ll go “hey, it’s that guy!” at least three times, or I’ll eat my hat.

Sadly, there was no Fortress 3 as, by the millennium the golden age of video rental was just about over, meaning there was less and less money to make these sort of movies. The gap between the top of the cinematic tree and the bit with films like this on it got bigger and bigger. If Fortress 3 was made this year, it’d all be green screen and the rest of the cast would be drama school dropouts who’d have to supply their own costumes.

If you’re a fan of the B-movies of the 80s and 90s, then you’ll probably have already seen this, but if not it’s certainly worth a go. Not too many lulls in the action, a decent cast and if you’re awake enough, plenty of plot holes to mock with your friends.

Lambert busts out his second facial expression

Lambert busts out his second facial expression

Fortress 2 on IMDB
Buy Fortress 2 – Re-Entry [DVD]


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