Welcome to the future!
War is raging. Food is scarce. At the start of the film, a newscaster officially says farewell to Australia as it’s swallowed by the ocean. Due to some sort of vaguely defined cosmic event, certain citizens have developed super powers. Normally, you might think that would be a good thing. Maybe someone can use their super strength to save Australia. Instead, it’s led to a rise in supervillains. People with names like The Conductor and the Lobe are terrorizing the world. Fortunately (or not), a prison has been designed to hold all of these super villains.
Running that prison is Overseer Devlin (Michael Rooker). Devlin is quick to correct anyone who calls him a warden. That said, Devlin runs his prison with a firm and sometimes cruel hand. All of the inmates are forced to wear a leg brace that neutralizes their powers. They’re at Devlin’s mercy and Devlin knows it. A sentence to San Tiburon prison is a life sentence, regardless of what the courts may say. No one gets parole unless Devlin wants them too and Devlin’s not in the business of giving people freedom.
Corrective Measures follows four inmates in particular. Diego Diaz (Brennan Meija) is an empath, a super power that will be of little help in a prison where empathy is seen as a weakness. Gordon Tweedy (Tom Cavanagh) is also known as the Conductor because he can control electricity. Payback (Dan Payne) is a self-styled vigilante who killed evildoers on the outside and who looks forward to killing more on the inside. Finally, there’s the Lobe (Bruce Willis), who is the most feared supervillain of all. The Lobe can control minds, but only if his leg brace is removed. While the Warden prepares for his retirement and considers who among his staff he should name as a his replacement, the inmates simply try to survive from one day to the next.
Corrective Measures is an episodic film, with the focus continually shifting from one character to another. When the film begins, Payback seems like he’s going to be the main character but then the focus shifts to Diego and The Conductor. Towards the end of the film, the focus switches once again and it becomes about The Lobe and his schemes. The one theme running through the entire film is the struggle to maintain one’s freedom and dignity in even the most difficult of circumstances. Yes, Corrective Measures might be a low-budget super hero film and yes, it was based on a graphic novel but it’s also a mediation on what it means to be free in a society that persecutes anyone who is perceived as failing to conform. That theme elevates the film, making it more than just a B-movie. If Sam Fuller directed a comic book movie, it would probably look something like Corrective Measures.
The actors also do wonders with the material, with Michael Rooker giving an entertainingly evil performance as Warden Devlin and Tom Cavanagh turning The Conductor into a surprisingly poignant character. That said, I imagine most people will be watching this film because it was one of the final films that Bruce Willis worked on before announcing his retirement from acting. It is true that Willis does spend the majority of this film in his cell. It’s rare that he’s ever actually seen in a shot with any of the other actors, leading me to suspect that Willis probably shot all of his scenes in a day or two. Despite that, Willis is well-cast as The Lobe and there’s even a few scenes where he seems like the Willis of old, smirking at his opponents and dismissing them with a well-timed insult. While it’s obvious that Willis was not in the best shape when he shot his scenes, Corrective Measures still feels like a better closing act than something like American Siege.
Corrective Measures is a far better film than I think anyone would have expected it to be. It’s a celebration of freedom that understands why it’s worth celebrating.