The Last Castle (2001)

(In theaters, October 2001) There’s nothing wrong with a good old “guy movie” once in a while. As long as you remember not to peer too closely at character motivation, logic or philosophical underpinnings. The Last Castle is set in a military prison filled with hard-edged convicts. In comes rockin’ Robert Redford (showing fully well why he deserved superstar status for so long), who sets out to give respect back to this assorted bunch of murderers, drug traffickers and rapists. Rah-rah-rah! This, of course, doesn’t sit very well with overbearing prison warden James Gandolfini, who immediately sets out to participate in a pissing match with our protagonist. It’s all a bit juvenile, but if you’re swept along with the absorbing script, it won’t matter a lot. Nor will the magically appearing weapons (a frickin’ trebuchet? How did they build that secretly?) or the plot contrivances, such as when a small fight conveniently sucks all guards out of a cafeteria. It all builds to a chest-thumping climax in which duty, honor, patriotism and blowing stuff all come to a meaningful end. (There’s one amazing action shot.) It’s sort of like The Shawshank Redemption with an exploding helicopter. I might sound snide and sarcastic, but I really liked the film as is, though the various emotional levels bothered me more and more once I had the chance to think about them. In any case, The Last Castle is a decent prison flick, a worthwhile rental whenever you want a guys’ movie night.

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