A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's clear that choosing a life of crime can have horrific consequences for loved ones. The film's intended message appears to be the Søren Kierkegaard quote "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
Positive Role Models
An absentee father is revealed to have greater purpose in his estrangement. Some characters show integrity, putting country above their own needs.
Main characters are all White; women and people of color are featured in the supporting cast (including military leadership), but they're all portrayed as being inferior to the more skilled White men. The female director of an exective retreat is shown to be strong, with an ability to defend herself, but filmmakers counteract her power by sexualizing her portrayal.
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Violence & Scariness
Tons of violence, often leading to instant death (or close to it, for some dramatic death scenes). Lots of shootings with assault rifles and pistols; not graphic, but some blood. Stabbings. A man is punched repeatedly in the face while constrained; he sustains cuts/bloody injuries. Physical fighting and combat. Explosions.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss. Sexual objectification of a woman who's simply doing her job. In constrast to every other character in the film, a professional woman is costumed in short shorts, and her shirt is ripped off in a struggle, leaving her wearing very little for most of the film.
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Pervasive strong language includes "a--hole," "bulls--t," "goddamn," "s--t," and frequent use of "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Apple and Cadillac are featured in a way that appears to be product placement.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fortress is a violent action film starring Bruce Willis, Jesse Metcalfe, and Chad Michael Murray. Expect guns galore, with plenty of shots fired and most of them fatal. Fighting extends to stabbings and hand-to-hand combat, and things definitely get bloody, though it's not over-the-top graphic. Language is also strong (mostly "f--k"). While the supporting consists largely of women and people of color in leadership positions, they're all portrayed as being inferior to the more skilled White male characters. Furthering that point, the female director of a high-security facility is objectified, wearing only a tight sports bra and tiny shorts throughout most of the movie. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For an action film about U.S. muscle, Fortress sure is weak -- but it does have some unexpected entertainment value. Just like a slasher film, there's an element of audience participation here: Viewers may find themselves shouting at the screen when watching the heroes' epically bad strategy ("Grab the gun!" "Lock the door!"). Teens in particular can be strengthened by these types of viewing experiences; it can be empowering to realize you know better than the characters on screen.
But from the opening scene of Willis shooting targets in the woods to a wise-cracking "elite ops delta force master sergeant" character in combat fatigues hollering the battle cry, "It's Miller Time!," it's pretty clear that this actioner isn't meant to be high-concept entertainment. Teens may spark to the fact that Paul has a cryptocurrency financial services company. And while there's too much talk about how the SEC monitors this emerging market, there's also some authentic humor in a 40-year-old villain knowing he needs his money in crypto but not truly understanding how it all works. Murray goes for the gusto as villain Balzary, hamming it up as a fancy, suit-vest wearing criminal mastermind. It's laugh-out-loud ridiculous, but at least he's one menacing figure who won't haunt your dreams. By comparison, it's difficult to buy Shannen Doherty as an Army general, but props to her for giving it her all -- she shines bright against the landscape of subpar performances, including Willis, who seems to need a nap. Bottom line? Except for the vibrant cinematography, there's nothing special about this rote actioner.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.