Fortress 2

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson


Columbia-TriStar, widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC] & Dolby Surround, subtitles: English, single side-single layer, 28 chapters, theatrical trailers, rated R, 92 min., $24.95, street date 4/25/2000.

Studio Line

Directed by Geoff Murphy. Starring Christopher Lambert, Pam Grier, Patrick Malahide, Liz May Brice, Willie Garson, Anthony C. Hall.

In the not-so-distant future, Earth is controlled by a giant corporation called Men-Tel. After escaping from a maximum security prison known as The Fortress, renegade John Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife and son are fugitives on the run. But Brennick is soon apprehended again and placed in a furturistic state-of-the-art maximun security prison recently completed by Men-Tel. Orbiting 26.000 miles from Earth, the prison houses the planet's most fierce criminals, forcing them to perform dreaded space labor amidst meteor showers and other harsh elements. Here, Brennick is locked down by hi-tech security jail cells and surrounded by an elaborate system of computer surveillance devices, including a camera placed inside his body. If Brennick ever wants to be re-united with his wife and son, he has no hope by to try to escape -- an idea that was never thought possible…until now!

Picture/Sound/Extras (A-/A-/D-)

One favorite bit on Seinfeld occurred when George rented Home Alone. Jerry questioned this purchase since George had hated Home Alone 2. George replied that he felt lost since he'd never seen the original.

That's all I could think about as I watched Fortress 2: Re-Entry. No, I wasn't lost as I viewed it, though I think a perusal of the original film might have helped a bit, but I did love the idea that one couldn't enjoy a simple-minded film such as Home Alone 2 - or F2, for that matter - without having seen the first part of the story.

That's what I thought of when I stopped saying to myself, Fortress 2?! Whatever happened to Fortress 1?!" Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but the release of the original film completely slipped by my radar. A trip by IMDB indicates that it came out in 1993 and grossed a whopping $6 million at the box office.

These factors scared me as I prepared to watch F2. It had many strikes against it. It was a sequel to a box office bomb that starred Christopher Lambert (in both the original and the new film). I'm not completely sure, but I think F2 was a straight to video project as well. (Actually, it apparently hit theaters in Australia, but I can find no evidence it enjoyed a theatrical run elsewhere.) If that wasn't a recipe for failure, I don't know what was.

Surprisingly, F2 turned out to be a moderately enjoyable movie. Does it offer anything new or fresh? Nope. Is it very well-executed? Nope. Is there any reason to recommend it instead of about 1000 other similar films? Nope. But I didn't mind watching it, and for a project such as this, that's a serious victory.

There's not a whole lot to say. The production seems generally competent but that's about it. Our heroes are stereotypes and not terribly interesting, our villains are stereotypes and not terribly interesting. The action is formulaic but reasonably good. I did greatly enjoy some excellent female nudity, however.

That last part is probably the best thing about F2, but I still found it to offer an acceptably pleasant experience. I can't actually recommend the film to you - too many better movies exist - but if you're stuck with it, it makes for a decent entry.

Fortress 2: Re-Entry appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As usual, Columbia-Tristar (CTS) have produced yet another fine-looking DVD.

Sharpness seems uniformly crisp and well-defined. I noted the slightest amount of softness on a couple of murkier interiors, but this was extremely negligible. Moiré effects appear on rare occasions, but they're slight, and I saw no jagged edges. A minor amount of "ropiness" stems from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV, but this also seemed very minor. The print itself betrayed no grain, scratches, speckles or other flaws.

F2 maintains a pretty subdued palette - it prefers the kind of metallic gray typical for this sort of film - but what we see looks excellent, and the instances of bright colors - like the orange jumpsuits we view from time to time - appear bold and vivid. Black levels are deep and rich, and shadow detail seems appropriately dense for the most part, although it looked a little heavy at times. All in all, the movie looks very good.

Also terrific is the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This kind of science fiction/action movie usually offers an active mix, and F2 is no exception. The soundstage is nicely broad and well-defined, with lots of appropriate activity popping out of the front channels. The rears also provide a lot of aural information and they create a strong 360 degree soundfield.

Quality seems fine. Although much of it must have been dubbed, dialogue sounded natural and well-integrated, with excellent intelligibility. Effects were clean and realistic and packed a nice punch, while the score seemed smooth and clear and displayed some decent low end as well. The soundtrack isn't quite demo quality, but it's very good and it helps make the film more entertaining.

The weakest part of the DVD comes from the paucity of supplements. We find some brief talent files for Lambert and Pam Grier; these are better than the usual extremely bare bones entries found on most CTS DVDs, but still don't say too much. We also get trailers for F2 and another Lambert film, Resurrection (which I haven't seen but appears to be from the Seven rip-off school).

One odd omission on this DVD is the lack of a fullframe transfer. CTS puzzle me, because they'll cram in pan and scan editions of true widescreen films like Stepmom that can barely stand the space because of their length, but then we find a short film like F2 that only offers mild matting and there's no fullscreen version. I don't have any interest in non-letterboxed images, but a lot of people do, so if there's room, why not include one? Some companies never bother (like Paramount and Fox), but since CTS do so pretty regularly, why isn't there one here?

I didn't particularly like Fortress 2, but I found it to be watchable and mildly entertaining. The DVD offers strong picture and sound but almost no supplements. I can't recommend this DVD to you because the movie's really quite ordinary and too many better films exist, but it's still not a bad film. You could do better, but you could do worse as well.

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