Volume 95, Issue 31

Friday, October 26, 2001
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A pretty bumpy ride

Sumtimes vegetarian is good

Last Castle another big-budget bust

Shits and Giggles

Gazette comix

Last Castle another big-budget bust

The Last Castle

Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo

Directed by:
Rod Lurie

Two 1/2 stars (out of five)

Gazette File Photo
"SORRY MAN, NO HARD FEELINGS?" James Gandolfini and Robert Redford duke it out in The Last Castle.

By Jordan Smith
Gazette Writer

Film majors take notice: there is a troubling shortage of original scripts in Hollywood.

The Last Castle is an example of a film whose survival is based solely on strength of acting and quality of onscreen action.

Prison dramas are among the most generic sub-genres in the past twenty years. With a few notable exceptions – The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile – the story of men in prison usually combines one or more of the following clichés: the individual vs. society, the institutionalization of human beings or the oppressive force of society.

Lucky for us, The Last Castle has all three.

In it, General Irwin (Robert Redford), a well-respected United States army commander, is sent to prison following an error in judgement – one which remains hidden for the majority of the film.

James Gandolfini, who stars as Colonel Winter, plays an evil jail warden who ruthlessly manipulates the prisoners.

Irwin leads his fellow prisoners in an uprising and they attempt to take over the prison.

The best work in the movie is between hero Irwin and villain Winter, a relationship that should have been explored in greater detail. The script never delves into what made Winter become so evil or how Irwin managed to lead a mostly heroic life.

The film's climactic scene is the action-packed inmate prisonmates. This is the fastest pace the movie ever reaches as it takes two hours for it to explain what could easily be told in much less time.

However, much of the film is spent fleshing out superficial sub-plots, such as the explanation of how Winter's own men began deserting him.

While the script tends to be skin-deep, the action sequences manage to keep the audience entertained, if not engrossed.

Unfortunately, it all adds up to little more than a brief thrill-ride.

Redford is well-cast as the wise Irwin, but James Gandolfini is the film's most pleasant surprise. He succeeds in this role, albeit a role not entirely unlike his small-screen alter-ego, Tony Soprano.

Ideologically, The Last Castle sticks to the usual Hollywood fare. The soldiers play the good guys, while the warden plays the bad guy.

While it is essentially a failure, The Last Castle is nonetheless held together by some strong acting and solid action scenes.

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