This halfway cross between Shawshank and a Bruckheimer movie proves to be rather uninspiring fare. That’s not to say its a bad film, its well acted, cleverly filmed and features a hell of a good final act utilising some clever action. Overall though the project is simply tedious. Its an average prison flick with the bad guy warden, the motivational rebellious prisoner, and the various grunts who although they are prisoners – they’ve got hearts of gold.
In fact all the prisoners from the loveable Clifton Collins Jr., to the gambler Mark Ruffalo are so nice its unrealistic. The guys in these jails are there for a reason and not all can be total nice guys and yet every single inmate here could lead a bible camp. Instead of some well balanced character development we get throwaway scenes like a subplot about Redford’s daughter, a rock carrying punishment sequence, etc. Redford does his usual good job, nothing memorable.
Faring a little better is Gandolfini who gets real good towards the end as he turns nastier. Lindo doesn’t get enough screen time (and a useful subplot involving him investigating the mistreatment claims is brought up and almost as quickly dropped), and the likes of soap star Steve Burton as Gandolfini’s aide prove surprisingly good. Ignore some of the glaring plot holes (now where’d they hide that catapult?), the occasionally corny patriotic speech about military pride, and you’ve got an ok movie.