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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 control the 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, in which John Brennick ends up in another prison, which is in space this time.


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The Fortress films have examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Zed-10 is really the one in charge of the futuristic prison, not the cybernetic warden- whom it even disposes of after he outlives his usefulness. When the heroes escape the prison it downloads itself into other mobile systems so it can keep pursuing them.
  • 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.
  • The Alcatraz: The titular Fortress, located on a bunker deep underground, with Explosive Leashes, automated Sentry Guns and heavily-armed Mecha-Mooks. The second movie ups the ante by having the prison placed in orbit.
  • Arm Cannon: The cyborg guards' machinegun-flamethrower. Brennick rips a dead cyborg's one and uses it to kick ass in the climax.
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  • Big "NO!": Brennick yells out one just before Stiggs gets shot.
  • Blind Without 'Em: After losing his glasses, D-Day can only flail his arms helplessly and call out for Brennick.
  • Camera Spoofing: Used in the sequel.
  • Catch-Phrase: Zed-10's "crime does not pay".
  • 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 utterly nonsensical, even In-Universe.
  • 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.
  • Dystopian Edict: Having more than one child is punished with a life sentence in a corporate-owned Hellhole Prison.
  • Great Escape: The movie is about escaping a hi-tech futuristic prison.
  • Hellhole Prison: The titular Fortress, built inside a mining facility with No OSHA Compliance, massively overcrowded, petty criminals are thrown together with murderers and rapists, and prisoners routinely suffer 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.
  • 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.
  • Kill Sat: What the Warden of the second movie's prison was working to turn it into. Fired twice: once to destroy a shuttle full of escaping (backstabbing) prisoners and the second time fired by Brennan to overload the prison's solar panels and destroy the prison itself.
  • 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 secondary priority to safety of the prisoners.
  • Mega-Corp: Men-Tel Corporation. The prison and everything in it, prisoners included, are its property.
  • Mind Rape: Very disobedient prisoners are subjected to a mindwipe, which leaves them braindead.
  • Nerd Glasses: D-Day, fitting his status as a tech-savvy hacker.
  • Numbered Sequels: Fortress 2 is the sequel to Fortress.
  • 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 by the guards. 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 he'll never be allowed to leave by the prison director.
  • 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!
  • Post-Climax Confrontation: After Brennick and co. 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 favourite pastime.
  • Prison Ship: Fortress 2. In the first film, The Alcatraz was built inside a mine in the desert. In the sequel, it's revealed to be a satellite orbiting the Earth.
  • Recycled In Space: The sequel is set in a space prison.
  • 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 Lion: There's a nervous guy in the opening when Brennick gets sent to prison 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 fight to the death, 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.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Karen agrees on one given by Poe, so he will release John from the mindwipe.
  • 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 the job. As a proverbial middle finger to Poe, Brennick offers Maddox his hand instead.
  • Tattooed Crook: Maddox has a very unconvincing tattoo of 187 -the murder statute- 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.
  • Traumatic C-Section: Pregnant female "breeders" are subjected to it when their child is taken away - it is also fatal.
  • Wardens Are Evil: The wardens in both movies are more than happy to oversee a prison where the inmates are treated like cattle. However, the first movie provided a subversion where the Prison A.I. was revealed to be the one really 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.

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