Fortress Poster

Fortress (2021) Review

If Fortress, the second Bruce Willis (Cosmic Sin, Breach) film to be released this month, looks a bit familiar, there’s a reason for that. It reunites Willis not only with Survive the Game’s director James Cullen Bressack (Hate Crime, Alone) but with co-star Chad Michael Murray (Camp Cold Brook, Survive the Night) and supporting cast members Michael Sirow (Out of Death, Jeepers Creepers 3), Canyon Prince (Battle Star Wars, Run Like Hell) and Simon Phillips (The Survivalist, The Nights Before Christmas). Given that was one of his better recent films, dare we hope it’s a good omen?

This time out, Willis plays Robert, an ex-CIA agent living in a hidden woodland resort that serves as a retirement community for former spies. His estranged son Paul (Jesse Metcalfe, Dead Rising: Watchtower, Escape Plan 2: Hades) is a cryptocurrency entrepreneur who has run into trouble and needs to ask his old man for help.

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Unfortunately, his plans aren’t as secret as his father’s location, and he’s being tracked by Balzary (Chad Michael Murray) who has a score to settle with Robert. And aided by Ulysses (Ser’Darius Blain, Bolden, Footloose) and his mercs he plans to get it.

Writer Alan Horsnail (Midnight in the Switchgrass) seems to have envisioned Fortress’ setting as a more friendly version of The Village from The Prisoner, but the implementation of it on screen is a bit confusing. There’s some kind of high-tech cloaking device making it invisible from the air. But on the ground, there’s just a fence and some security cameras. The fence isn’t even electrified, Ulysses and his crew just cut it open and walk in. One would expect such a rich collection of high-value targets to have something a bit stronger.

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In case you haven’t guessed, the internal security is just as useless as the perimeter security, and father and son have to put the past behind them to save the day. Or at least partially save it since Fortress is part one of a trilogy, the sequel Fortress 2 was shot back to back with it under the direction of Josh Sternfeld (Meskada, Winter Solstice).

Willis actually seems to have put some effort into Fortress. He’s in several locations, not just sitting on the same set for all of his scenes. He even makes some attempts at acting and doesn’t just sleepwalk through the entire proceedings. He still sounds uninterested at some very inappropriate times, though, such as when he’s explaining to Paul what he used to do and why he wasn’t around while his mother was dying.

As usual, his screen time is limited, but it’s better edited through the film, which makes it seem like he’s in it more than he actually is. Fortress’s other two name cast members, Chad Michael Murray and Shannen Doherty (Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys, Charmed) who plays General Dobbs, the facility’s head of security, turn up about halfway through the film.

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Billed as an action thriller, Fortress leans a lot more on thriller than action. Most of the heroics consist of what seems to be the facility’s only competent guard playing cat and mouse with the bad guys while everyone else holes up in a well-equipped and fortified bunker. Even then, much of the mayhem takes place off-screen, probably to avoid the cost of extras to use as grenade fodder.

If you can get past the ludicrous lack of security and inept guards, Fortress is a reasonably entertaining film that takes a few cues from Live Free or Die Hard. You didn’t think it was a coincidence his son was into cryptocurrency, did you? It’s constrained by the fact it’s a part of a trilogy rather than a stand-alone film, but if you know this going in, you can adjust your expectations accordingly. Whether this is going to be worth three films worth of our time is another matter, however.

Lionsgate will give Fortress a limited theatrical and VOD release on December 17th. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on December 21st. You can check their website for more information.

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Our Score

14 thoughts on “Fortress (2021) Review”

  1. Breathing a sigh of relief that Willis can go out on a high note this year. I’ll certainly be checking this out and writing my own review once i get my hands on it. Here’s hoping the other two are at least decent.

  2. Very very poor performance all across the field directing ,acting … all of it. The whole movie projects total lack of professionalism. A huge disappointment For the Bruce Willis fan club.

  3. I gave up about halfway through and skipped right to the end 10 minutes. Some people might want their ninety minutes back, but I actually saved thirty.

    So the director of this piece of crap also made another couple of Bruce Willis movies, I haven’t seen them and now I’m not sure I could watch them.

    One of the many things that sucked is an ending that was usually reserved for those slasher movies made in the 80’s. Endings everyone hated, where the downed killer would open his eyes/pick up a weapon etc just before the titles came up. Fair enough though, I knew before I watched it that it was shot back to back with it’s sequel.

    1. And the fact that he’s reaching for a big ass knife rather than a gun adds to that feeling. Which might be intentional as the director got his start in horror films.

  4. It was so bad. Everything, from the script, the directing, the acting. Even a great actor can’t rescue such a bad project. It felt cheap, and poorly produced. I’ve watched better work from film students. I could name a hundred indie films that are better. Just an entire waste of time. They must’ve paid them well to participate in such a shit show. Talk about a movie that did not need to get made.

  5. Bruce Willis should retire…worst movie this year….bad acting by all cast….tedious and boring

  6. One more horrible low quality movie fr Willis. Almost worse than the precedent ones. Cheap production, really badly filmed, the story stinks, all the actors should be ashamed to have participate to this movie, the acting is terrible and even the performance of Willis is hardly a performance at that level. I understand he has bills to pay and that he get pay only to show himself and add his name to the cast but this one is truly bad. It is pathetic for a famous actor to end his career doing movies as bad as this one. Mr Willis at this point would better do something else, putting his face on sauce-labels or sell barbecues but for sure he d better end his career than to make below-amateur-level movie of this kind. His acting in it is so bad. The only performance of this movie is to have succeeded in putting together so many bad actors in the same movie. Shame on you mr Willis, you re spiting in the face of your fans when being part of such a crappy movie. Do us a favour. Retire and never do any acting again, apparently you ve forgotten what acting means. It s so bad that it looks like Willis went for a day of filming and then they cut that day of filming in 300 small pieces that were edited to make believe he actually was interacting with the cast. On top of that it s so badly done , not even laughable…Avoid this movie, it must be the worse movie I ve seen the last 15 years.

    1. From what I’ve read he’s getting a million dollars a film for 2 or 3 days’ work. For that, you think he would at least try to give a good performance.

      1. The absent, hollow look in his eyes gives me cause for concern about his faculties. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and it’s just what it looks like when trying to act and read cue cards at the same time at that age.

        1. I thought it was just absolute boredom and disinterest in his roles. But it could be the onset of dementia, it would explain a lot.

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