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Film / Fortress (1992)

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Fortress is a 1992 scifi film by Stuart Gordon.

In a dystopian future, in order to correct for overpopulation, the law dictates that only one child is allowed per woman. John (Christopher Lambert) and Karen (Loryn Locklin) Brennick end up in a futuristic prison for being "breeders", people who violate said law. Now it's up to John to break them both out.

A sequel was released in 2000, called Fortress 2: Re-Entry.

The Fortress films have examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The film is set in 2017. It was released in 1992.
  • Agony Beam: The intestinators which are implanted into every prisoner, and which can cause them excruciating pain when they defy the prison's sadistic rules... or whenever the warden feels like it. It is briefly demonstrated that the intestinators can also function as an Explosive Leash, killing prisoners who cross the prison's boundaries.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Zed-10 is really the one in charge of the futuristic prison, not the cybernetic warden. This may be entirely what the Men-Tel company wanted, but Zed-10 proves to be incredibly vulnerable to D-Day's virus, with all the prison's systems going haywire almost immediately once he uploads it. This is perhaps ironic, given that the AI in charge of the ultimate prison apparently lacks any firewall of its own.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: In the dystopian future, everyone is sent to a high-security Alcatraz-esque prison for crimes ranging from homicide, breaking the pregnancy statute, or bouncing checks.
  • Alien Blood: The cybernetic Strike Clones and Poe bleed a bright blue liquid.
  • Arm Cannon: The Strike Clones' machinegun-flamethrower. Brennick rips a dead cyborg's one and uses it like a BFG to kick ass in the climax.
  • Ax-Crazy: Maddox. That he has a tattoo of "187" (the statute code for homicide) on his forehead makes him something of a Card-Carrying Villain, as well.
  • Big "NO!": Brennick yells out one just before Stiggs gets shot. And when the truck controlled by Zed-10 crashes and destroys the barn where Karen was.
  • Blind Without 'Em: After losing his glasses, D-Day can only flail his arms helplessly and call out for Brennick.
  • Catchphrase: "Crime does not pay", a phrase Zed repeats every time a prisoner must be disciplined.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: Karen gives one to John, right before John is tortured by Zed-10:
    Karen: John, no matter what you do, I'll never not love you.
    John: You're really lousy at goodbyes. You know that.
    Karen: I always have been.
  • Deadly Dodging: Just before an ion cannon shoots D-Day, Brennick dives in to rescue him, and a cyborg guard gets blasted instead.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Brennick and his wife are captured and locked in a future Alcatraz for the horrible crime of "breeding" a second child. Bonus points for the first child being a stillbirth, which makes the sentence even more unfair.
  • Doomed Defeatist: During the big escape scene, Stiggs panics and decides to surrender. He slowly rises from behind cover, hands first, and is shredded by bullets by the Strike Clones.
  • Dystopian Edict: Having more than one child is punished with decades in a corporate-owned Hellhole Prison.
  • Eye Scream: When Brennick is subjected to the mindwipe, he sees a vision of himself ripping his eyes out (or perhaps merely wishes he could rip his eyes out). D-Day also disposes of a cyborg by striking them with a pickaxe right into their eyepiece, though it's unclear if there is an actual eye behind it.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Cyborg guards' guns double as machine guns, gas launchers and flamethrowers.
  • Flipping the Bird: Nino does it while distracting a security sentry so that he, Brennick, and D-Day can hop aboard it to escape from the incoming Strike Clones and be taken up to Poe's headquarters.
  • Great Escape: The movie is about escaping a hi-tech futuristic prison.
  • Hellhole Prison: The titular Fortress, built inside a mining facility, has No OSHA Compliance, is massively overcrowded, throws together petty criminals with murderers and rapists, and routinely subjects prisoners to physical and mental torture for the most trivial things, such as having a wet dream.
  • Heroic Willpower: Brennick stands against the mindwipe for three days, whereas other prisoners could only take it for an hour. Downplayed in that Brennick eventually succumbs to the mindwipe all the same.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: The illegal babies that are taken from "breeders" are modified into enhanced beings which won't require food or sleep any more. This includes Prison Director Poe.
  • Hollywood Hacking: D-Day does this to Zed-10. What makes it especially weird is that he does so using Poe's woefully insecure login details despite Zed-10 having just shown itself able to ignore Poe's commands, being well aware that the escaping prisoners were in the control room, and oh yeah, knowing that Poe couldn't be the one logging in because Zed-10 just killed him.
  • Ironic Echo: Zed-10 uses the same phrases on Poe as he does on the prisoners when he is fired.
    Zed-10: You are the property of the Men-Tel corporation.
    Poe: But I am the director of this institution!
    Zed-10: You will please leave Central Control. Crime does not pay.
  • Kick the Dog: At one point, Poe activates Karen's intestinator despite that she is doing nothing wrong, just to rub his control in Brennick's face.
  • Kill It with Fire: Brennick sets the truck controlled by Zed-10 on fire to make it finally lose control and crash.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Warden Poe's fate, courtesy of an ion cannon controlled by Zed-10.
  • Master Computer: Zed-10. It's so extensive that when D-Day infects it with his computer virus, systems all over the fortress malfunction right down to the lifts falling down their shafts. Then again, this is a prison, so maintaining control over everything was likely a priority over prisoner safety.
  • Mega-Corp: Men-Tel Corporation. The prison and everything in it, prisoners included, are its property.
  • Mind Rape: The worst punishment for prisoners is the mindwipe, which leaves them near-braindead. Once we see the process from the prisoner's point of view, it's far more torturous than just wiping a slate clean.
  • Nerd Glasses: D-Day, fitting his status as a tech-savvy hacker.
  • No Prison Segregation: Downplayed. The Men-Tel Corporation's massive prison, built into an underground mine in the desert, houses both male and female inmates, but separates them into different wings. The reason for this is that Men-Tel is using the women as Breeding Slaves to create new cyborg offspring that are under its complete control.
  • The Old Convict: Abraham has been in the prison so long that he's become a 'trustee', a privileged inmate who is entrusted with some responsibilities. Brennick tries to ask him for help, but he's so jaded that he would rather keep his head down. He does eventually aid the heroes when he realizes that Poe has no intentions of ever granting him parole.
  • One-Word Title: "Fortress".
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Who'd have guessed that a prison director would've set his password to 'Crime Does Not Pay'? It's not like the computer takes every opportunity to repeat this phrase to the inmates as often as it can, or anything!
  • Population Control: The movie has the protagonist and his pregnant wife try to leave a dystopian US after it has implemented a one-child policy to fight overpopulation. In fact, their first baby was stillborn, though the law apparently doesn't make an exception - one shot is all you get. For this "crime", they are sent to a huge underground prison.
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: After Brennick and his allies escape from prison, Zed-10 takes over their escape vehicle to eliminate them.
  • Private Profit Prison: The prison is run by the Men-Tel Corporation, which asserts that the prisoners are its property.
  • Prison: The title and main setting of the movie.
  • Prison Rape: Maddox's favorite pastime. Thankfully, we don't get to see any evidence of this on-screen.
  • Run for the Border: The film opens with Karen and John trying to make it to Canada for violating the Population Control laws by trying to have a child together. They're both discovered and sent to a futuristic prison.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: When Brennick is first processed into the prison, there's a nervous guy who is just there to demonstrate the prison's security systems by getting his stomach blown up.
  • Save the Villain: At the end of Brennick and Maddox's last fight, Brennick tries to save Maddox from falling to his death, but Maddox is then gorily eliminated by the prison security system on the Warden's orders.
  • Scannable Man: Brennick and Karen get the barcode tattooed on their forearms scanned when asked for their identification during the opening scene.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Karen agrees on one given by Poe, so he will release John from the mindwipe. However, it is notable that later on Poe was revealed to be a cyborg, and he explicitly concurred with Karen's statement that he can't have sex, therefore it seems that Poe's motivations are not so much sexual but rather emotionally possessive.
  • Shock-and-Switch Ending: Brennick is left in tears when he thinks that destroying the truck piloted by Zed-10 has accidentally killed Karen in the barn the truck exploded into, before hearing the wails of his newborn and discovering that she managed to get out in time.
  • Shovel Strike: Used against a cyborg guard.
  • Take My Hand!: After Brennick manages to defeat Maddox in a one-on-one fight, Maddox is left hanging on a ledge. Poe then orders Brennick to Finish Him!. As a proverbial middle finger to Poe, Brennick offers Maddox his hand instead.
  • Tattooed Crook: Maddox has a very unconvincing tattoo of "187" on his forehead, for the crime he's in for.
  • Thought Crime: The "unauthorized thought processes", i.e. erotic fantasies. Brennick receives an electronic shock from Zed-10 after it reads his mind during REM sleep.
  • Torso with a View: Maddox, after getting blasted with an ion cannon by a sentry.
  • Traumatic C-Section: Pregnant female "breeders" are subjected to it when their child is taken away - it is also fatal.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Director Poe is as sadistic as any other member of this trope. However, it's subverted when Zed, the AI, is revealed to be the one in control.
  • You Are Number 6: John Brennick is assigned the number 95763 when he arrives at The Alcatraz, leading to the following exchange:
    Prison director Poe: Sit down, 95763.
    John: My name is Brennick.
    Prison director Poe: Of course it is.