Troma // 1989 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 7th, 2004
Masochistic, militias, political perverts, psychotic sex slaves, and they were just the scouting party...
Well, I asked for it. I'd always been aware of Troma and their reputation for "so bad it's good" sleaze and campy weirdness. I figure, hey, I'm a DVD critic, time to see what the fuss is all about. Why not check out this infamous studio and delve into their peculiar brand of B-film? I was prepared for gruesomeness and sleaze, for poor acting and cinematography. Yet I was completely unprepared for how bad Fortress Of Amerikkka is. Watching this movie is like being stuck in traffic while you have to pee. At first it is uncomfortable and moderately annoying, but it sort of forces you to pay attention. Then you begin to squirm uncomfortably in your seat, wondering if you'll be able to endure. Eventually, your mind and body scream, "Dear God, let this ordeal end!" while you repeatedly slam your head against the steering wheel in agony.
To say the plot is aimless is too kind. A crazed general has formed a militia that camps out in a National Park. These "soldiers" go around killing people: lovers out camping, little kids playing in the water, old farmers, or anyone else who enters the park. Why? No reason, really. They just kill people, don't ask questions. Lest you try to make sense out of the idea, Fortress Of Amerikkka will thwart you. For example, The General punishes some soldiers for not killing innocent people. Then he punishes another group of soldiers for killing innocent people. Then he kills innocent people.
But that is just the main plot. What of White Cloud, the recent parolee? The Sheriff sent him to jail. While he was in jail, The Sheriff killed White Cloud's brother (Charmin?). Now White Cloud is out for revenge. I tell you, this is powerful cinema.
There are more subplots, such as White Cloud's ex who is now living with some nondescript guy. He seems to exist simply to listen to Ms. Ex-White Cloud's pained monologues. There are scads of incidental characters such as this who are in the movie but don't serve any real purpose.
The plot is abysmal, but it isn't the worst part. The worst part is the unredeemingly bad faux-military tone. Fortress Of Amerikkka makes Commando seem like The Bridge on the River Kwai. Not only is it grossly stupid, it is senselessly violent. Not in a shocking way, or in a guilty-thrill way, or any other way that violence is cool. One scene has a couple making out in a hotel, and two mercenaries come in and kill the girl with M-16's. Then they walk out in a cover-2 formation, as though the old woman at the desk is going to come out spraying bullets and throwing hand grenades. In another scene, a boy and a girl are building sandcastles on a beach, and a handful of soldiers torment the kids, let them run away, then shoot them in the back. When anyone deigns to mention these acts of violence, it is couched in patriotic rhetoric, saying that the mercenaries are protecting America's freedoms. The irony is supposed to be that the mercenaries are destroying American values, but the whole thing is such a rancid mess that any subtext is eroded.
If you think this stuff might be sort of cool or funny, you are wrong. It is just stupid. There is no setup or overarching schema that helps us process these acts. There is no Pulp Fiction coolness, no Man Bites Dog humor. There are just unconvincing mercenaries shooting regular people and then partying with hookers in their tents.
Oh yeah, I might as well mention the sex scenes. I was weaned on Skinemax, so my tastes can scrape the bottom of the barrel. Fortress Of Amerikkka does show breasts, but it's hard to imagine a less erotic setting. Dimly-lit interior shots depict a grainy breast or two in the most grotesque mockery of sensuality. In the aforementioned hotel scene, a naked overweight guy is slobbering and giggling while jumping up and down on a bed. There is a bimbo with a bad boob job who drops her shirt and stares vacantly at the camera. Seconds later, the mercenaries come in and shake their M-16 props while someone splatters red paint on the wall. This passes for eroticism in Fortress Of Amerikkka. If you want titillation, go to the library and peruse old copies of National Geographic. It will be a better use of your time.
The below-subpar acting rushes right past "so bad it's funny" territory, pauses in "mind-numbingly dull" territory, then plunges ahead to darker places. Infomercial testimonials, where actors who pose as people in the street read marketing blurbs off posterboard, are more engaging.
Sonically and visually, this is about what you'd expect: amateurish, low-budget cinematography with poor contrast. Anemic, echoing sound accentuates the wretched dialogue. This transfer looks like it was copied from VHS to DVD.
What of the vaunted Troma extras?
* Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman: Moderately amusing plug for Troma films.
* Kick in the Head Music Video by Purple Pam: The only real extra, this is an almost funny music video for a toneless punk-metal song. Purple Pam would probably be a cool chick to party with. I can glean a hint of what people see in Troma from this video.
* Make Your Own Damn Movie: A commercial for a book.
* Troma.com: A commercial for a website.
* Troma Trailers: Commercials for some movies.
I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: the last forty minutes of Fortress Of Amerikkka are a teeth-gritting ritual of endurance. Each limpid scene drags on five minutes too long; each word stabs your throbbing temples like an icepick. Occasionally a gun will fire or a boob will jiggle, and you muster a faint laugh of disdain for the shallow attempt to maintain interest. By the time the credits roll, you can't summon any emotion save the willpower to hit the power button.
Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman
* Music Video: Kick in the Head by Purple Pam
* Make Your Own Damn Movie
* Troma.com Web Link Spot
* Troma Trailers