James Cullen Bressack’s action film Fortress is not a remake of Stuart Gordon’s favorite sci-fi movie. Instead, the filmmaker reconnects with his Survive the game leads Bruce Willis and Chad Michael Murray in a story full of revenge, double crosses, and, of course, action. So does Bressack strike lightning, or is his film boring instead of exhilarating?
Paul (Jesse Metcalfe) is on his way to visit his ex-father, Robert (Bruce Willis), who lives in a remote retirement home on a mountain. The two haven’t spoken to each other for three years, although that isn’t as shocking as it might sound, as Robert was a largely absent father during his son’s childhood. So why does Paul go to the middle of nowhere to see him after all this time? Well a big investor in his global cryptocurrency finance company has pulled out and he needs a quick influx of money. This is where Robert comes in, because he has access to the millions needed.
However, shortly after showing up at the heavily fortified compound, Paul discovers that mercenaries, led by Balzary (Chad Michael Murray), have followed him. The evil leader and his henchmen will stop at nothing to get what they want. So now it’s up to Paul, Robert, Facilities Manager Kate (Kelly Greyson) and the stoic Dobbs (Shannen Doherty) to stop the mercenaries from killing everyone.
“…Paul discovers that mercenaries, led by Balzary, followed him.
Alan Horsnail’s screenplay for Fortress includes two great action pieces with character beats sprinkled in between. After the initial set-up of tension between father and son, the mercenaries attack. Then there’s the revelation of Robert’s actual career, what the title fortress is, and who or what Balzary is looking for. Then the big showdown, with, of course, a handful of little moments involving side characters and betrayals, so there’s no dull moment.
Fortunately, the screenwriter has created decent characters with strong relationships. This means that while the plot isn’t too original (no points for guessing who the mole is nor for knowing Robert’s profession already), viewers remain engaged as they want these characters to escape with their lives. . And again, Bressack shows a natural flair for action, as the fights and shootouts are quite exciting.
But really, it’s the cast that makes Fortress stand out as much as it does. Murray enjoys playing the big bad and comes across as a genuinely menacing presence. Metcalfe is easy to like and love everywhere, and his chemistry with Greyson is pretty strong. Willis is an old hat in roles like this, but he’s still pretty good here, especially in the second half. But Doherty and Greyson stand out, as both imbue their roles with a bit of personality and fun.
Fortress moves at a fast pace and its action scenes are most exciting. While the story is a standard issue, the cast is having fun and the whole thing looks better than the budget suggests. All action movie lovers would do well to research this ASAP.