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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Prison inmates display teamwork and a willingness to put differences aside to overcome a greater adversary. Redemption for past crimes. But also examples of bullying, violence, and other bad behavior.
Positive Role Models
Colonel Winter admits he sees the worst in his prisoners, using their crimes to crystalize his views that they are worthless, and lesser than he is. General Irwin does the opposite, he reminds them all of the good within them, highlighting their past misdemeanors as mere mistakes, rather than defining traits. Though the majority of characters are flawed, and in some cases dangerous, some of the inmates find redemption for their crimes.
Set within a men's military prison, nearly the entire cast is male. But there is some diversity in terms of race, both amongst the prison guards and inmates. Although some of the inmates (and guards) are cliched, in that they are solely portrayed as being violent and cruel -- playing up to the stereotype of prison life -- some are also shown to be more complex as they seek redemption for their past crimes.
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Violence & Scariness
Strong and frequent violence. Fist fights result in characters covered in blood. Guards shoot prisoners with rubber bullets and beat them with batons. The guards even murder prisoners, passing off incidents as accidents. A graphic scene depicts a bullet going through someone's head. Inmates throw fireballs at the guards, setting fire to parts of the prison. A fight breaks out on a moving helicopter and the propellor takes out a watching platform, where a guard was stood. The aircraft then crashes and burns. The guards also authorize the use of lethal ammunition, giving the order for prisoners to be killed. Characters take bets on how long new inmates will last before taking their own lives. Others bully an inmate with a speech impediment, calling them "simple."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A character references a "hand job" in one scene.
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Countless uses of the word "f--k" and "motherf----r." Other swear words include "s--t" and "pr--k." "Jesus Christ" and "God" used as exclamations.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Two characters appear to drink an alcoholic beverage together, although it's not completely clear what the drink is. The prisoners are often seen smoking. One admits to having smoked "hash" in the past, and seems to be selling a substance of some kind to a fellow inmate.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Last Castle is an action drama set within a military prison, with systematic violence and bad language throughout. There is an interesting role reversal that plays on the audiences expectations and prejudices, as the people in prison generally have more positive traits than the reprehensible guards, who include Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). General Irwin (Robert Redford), an inmate, seeks to remind his fellow prisoners that they are inherently good people, and that they are there to be rehabilitated not just punished. That said, many of the prisoners are still flawed -- bullying and behaving violently. One inmate takes bets on when other prisoners may take their own life. Fist fights result in much blood, prisoners are shot at by rubber bullets, and buildings are set on fire during an uprising. In one particularly graphic scene, a character is shot in the head at close range. There is also a fight on a moving helicopter, which results in a crash and explosion. The strong language is consistent and includes variants of "f--k," as well as words like "s--t" and "pr--k." Characters are seen smoking throughout, and one admits to having smoked "hash," and seems to be dealing a substance within the prison walls. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A movie that deals with somewhat conventional cinematic territory, this 2001 prison action drama is elevated by the sheer brilliance of the cast assembled. The Last Castle is a familiar story, ticking off the checklist expected from this genre. But it becomes something far greater than the screenplay deserved, thanks to, among others, Redford, Gandolfini, and a young Mark Ruffalo. Gandolfini in particular steals the show, as the late actor uses his remarkable ability to evoke empathy from the viewer, despite playing the most reprehensible of characters. You somehow find yourself feeling sorry for his sadistic warden, as the actor brings so much nuance to the character.
The film lets itself down somewhat with an overly dramatic final act, perhaps veering a little from realism in the process, and with a jarring sense of patriotism, including cliched footage of the U.S. flag blowing in the wind. But take that away and the story and performances do enough to ensure it remains an agreeable way to spend your time.
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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.
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Our Editors Recommend
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