With the grossly and laughably irresponsible The Last Castle, Rod Lurie (critic-cum-director of last year’s odious The Contender) accomplishes the impossible by churning out a flag-waving action yarn even more ham-fisted than Pearl Harbor. Anyone who’d dare taunt the fashion police by wearing an “Osama: Wanted Dead” shirt will proudly swoon before Lurie’s irresponsible how-to-break-out-of-prison freak show. The film is so egregiously patriotic and masochistic that Lurie all but stops short of showing full-bosomed lesbians making out on beds covered with American flags. Is there something to the fact that both this film and Pearl Harbor feature main characters that stutter? As if taking a cue from Disney’s shooting of Bambi’s mother, Last Castle‘s screenwriters use mentally disabled man’s death as a way of summoning audience pity. Last Castle takes place inside a prison for military boys who’ve gone postal. The latest inmate to check in is General Irwin (Robert Redford), admired by everyone with any respect for the good ol’ US of A. Hell, he’s even got the respect of the prison’s headmaster, the evil Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). Irwin insults Winter within minutes by challenging the Colonel’s patriotism and instantly incurs his wrath. With boy toy Lt. Peretz (Steve Burton) by his side, Winter conducts business from an office space above the prison yard. Irwin is the head revolutionary and organizes a prison coup that will hopefully lead to Winter’s court-martial. Remember when it was a good thing to listen to classical music? Though Lurie stops short of providing James Gandolfini with a curly mustache, the score’s classical orchestrations ludicrously evoke the character’s immorality while Jerry Goldsmith’s non-stop patriotic horns all but cue Bette Midler’s boogie-woogie bugle boys. Less restrained are Lurie’s compositions—one, two, sometimes even three flags are featured in any given shot from the film. Sweaty prisoners fight for their rights and a flag is hoisted into the air that comes to symbolize Irwin’s bloodstained courage. Lurie operates under the assumption that his prisoners deserve the audience’s unconditional respect because of their military ranks. It’s no surprise then that the director skirts around the issue of the prisoner’s crimes so as to ensure our sympathies. Most irresponsibly, Lurie has the audacity to evoke the Civil Right’s Movement during one of the film’s more heated moments. Lurie also makes for a simple visualist—he uses chess pieces as metaphors (pawn=prisoner). When the boys do take back the night, they find time to sing “From the Halls of Montezuma” (why not “We Shall Overcome?”). The good old boys have spoken: We are America, dammit, and we deserve respect! The biggest surprise here is that the film doesn’t end with a resounding yell of “Checkmate!”
- Rod Lurie
- David Scarpa, Graham Yost
- Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Burton, George Scott, Addison Pate, Nick Kokich
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: