Animal Factory Reviews
"On the Inside the Rules Are Brutal and the Stakes Are High"
Steve Buscemi can definitely direct. Animal Factory was his follow up to the very good character driven alcoholic drama, Trees Lounge. Like his debut, this film has a very gritty, independent feel to it. Animal Factory is also very character driven as well, and the performances are good across the board, especially Willem Dafoe; but would you expect any different. Edward Furlong is well cast as the new fish in the prison. His character stands out as a small, young, and inexperienced inmate, that is thrown into a prison with ruthless criminals. He is taken under the wing of a institutionalized convict named Earl. Earl shows him the ropes and helps him out of some situations that he wouldn't have been able to get himself out of. The great thing about Animal Factory is how it makes you like the criminals without inserting any doubt of their innocence or guilt. We like Earl because of how he helps Ron, despite the fact that he is a ruthless and drug addicted criminal.
Animal Factory doesn't go out of its way to insert any added drama. It feels very held back, when lesser films may have chosen to insert dumb little subplots to make the viewer feel more at home. This is one of those movies you appreciate even more when you look at some of the other efforts from the genre. Where those movies go wrong, this one doesn't. It doesn't simplify or intensify any part of the plot in order to get reactions from the audience. This may put off some viewers, but I really respect movies that are try and succeed at doing just that. This is just a realistic portrayal of prison life, shot in a real prison, with real inmates. It can't get much more realistic than that. It isn't a Shawshank Redemption caliber film, but it is a damn good one. Entertaining and powerful, without being melodramatic or overblown.
Also, Tom Arnold proves that he only needs to be in a movie for a total of 3 minutes, to completely ruin it.
Not as gritty as, let's say, AMERICAN ME or MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, but still engrossing. Great cast of characters and Mickey Rourke like I've never seen him, as Jan the Actress.
Ron (Edward Furlong) a newbie in the world of convicts gets sentenced for the sale of drugs. While an inmate he meets a companion Earl (Willem Dafoe) who takes him under his wing and shows him the way of prison life. Together they portray the trials and tribulations of life on the inside. All there is left to do is to make it back out to freedom and life on the outside.
There is a good pace throughout this movie even though it is not a fast, intense or emotional one. Steve Buscemi did a great job keeping everything on track and consistent. Even though this was no Shawshank it was fun to watch. It did end a little abruptly for my liking but I can't have everything. The only thing I really didn't like was that they made it seem like a cakewalk in jail. Any one who has been in or has known someone who has served time will know that it sucks more than they portrayed.
While I wasn't dancing off my seat I was thoroughly impressed with this film. It kept me up watching at 2:30 A.M. and that sometimes is a feat in itself. If you enjoy prison films don't pass it up because this is a good one.