The Last Castle (2001) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: R for language and violence
Running Time: 131 min.
Cast: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Burton, Delroy Lindo
Director: Rod Lurie
Screenplay: David Scarpa, Graham Yost
Review published October 19, 2001
One could have reasonable high expectations for Rod Lurie's follow-up to his solid political flick, The Contender, but you might be hard-pressed to say they were met after watching The Last Castle for the duration. While Lurie does a fine job in the technical aspects of directing, he makes the fatal mistake of not knowing when enough implausibility is enough. Heaped on top of these scenes of contrivance comes two generous helpings of unabashed patriotism that may leave you reaching for the Tylenol after forcing your mind to attempt to go with the flow.
Robert Redford (The Horse Whisperer, Sneakers) plays Irwin, a three-star general who ends up in a military prison due to costing the lives of his men in the line of battle presumably unnecessarily. The warden of the prison is Colonel Winter (Gandolfini, The Man Who Wasn't There), who has never fought in a battle but admires and even collects memorabilia from those that do. Irwin has the tracks greased for an easy time due to his stellar record in Winter's eyes, but gets himself in a lot of hot water quick after questioning the iron-fist tactics of the Colonel with his prisoners. The rest of the inmates begin looking up to Irwin, and soon they form allegiance to Irwin in the form of a small army. Winter doesn't like this, and soon it's a test between the two as to who actually will run the prison.
As a viewer, I really wanted to like The Last Castle and was ready to forgive a little creative license due to good actors and an interesting story. Alas, there were just too many occurrences which defied any logical realism to the detriment of what could have been a compelling and hopefully emotionally uplifting tale of honor and redemption. Adding to the collapse of the film around halfway through is the predictability in the plot which never ceases to deviate from the course most people lay out after the initial set-up. Fans of Redford and perhaps Gandolfini will enjoy seeing their favorite actors putting in good work, and the film does maintain watchability even through the worst of the nonsense. The verdict: rent it only if you like the stars and patriotic military films of the most saccharine variety.
©2001 Vince Leo