Movie reviews: “The Last Castle”

Putting James Gandolfini in a starring role in a movie for the first time
has both its advantages and its drawbacks, it would seem. Critics are, for
the most part, praising his performance in the prison drama The Last Castle, in which he stars opposite Robert Redford.

Yet many of those
same critics complain that The Last Castle compares poorly with
The Sopranos, the HBO series that made Gandolfini a big star to begin
with.

(In a feature about the movie appearing in today’s Toronto
Globe & Mail
writer Simon Houpt observed: “The Sopranos is so
finely wrought, and his work in it so sublime, it is disturbing to see him
in something as hackneyed as The Last Castle.“)

Nevertheless, the
film has received several raves. Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post
writes that it is a rare pleasure to see a movie “that combines exciting
action with a smart, well-informed script and vivid yet restrained
performances.”

On the other hand, across town at the New York Daily News,
writer Jack Mathews scoffs, “I don’t know why Redford and the white-hot
Gandolfini signed on for this fiasco.”

Los Angeles Daily News critic
Bob Strauss voices a similar verdict. The film, he says, “manages to be
howlingly simplistic and ridiculously illogical at the same time.”

Curiously, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times admits he has
ambivalent feelings about the movie: “The immediate experience of watching
The Last Castle is strongly involving, and the action at the end,
exciting,” he writes. “It’s the kind of movie people tell you they saw last
night and really liked. I really liked it last night, too. It’s only this
morning that I’m having trouble with it.”

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