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Erik Van Looy
Ron, who's young, slight, and privileged, is sentenced to prison on marijuana charges. For whatever reason, he brings out paternal feelings in an 18-year prison veteran, Earl Copan, who takes Ron under his wing. The film explores the nature of that relationship, Ron's part in Earl's gang, and the way Ron deals with aggressive cons intent on assault and rape. There's casual racism, too, in the prisoners and the guards, a strike called by Black prisoners, and the nearly omnipresence of hard drugs. Ron's lawyer is working on getting Ron out quickly, Earl has a shot at parole, and death seems to be waiting in the next cell. Will prison turn Ron into an animal? Written by
This should come with a stench of authenticity . Bssed on a novel by Edward Bunker who knows all about hard men doing hard time it also features a supporting role by Danny Trejo who's just about the hardest man to have held an American Equity card . Add to this a rare starring role for Edward Furlong as a middle class boy with the world at his feet who's thrown everything away to become small time drug dealer facing several years inside and you'd think there would be no acting required but ANIMAL FACTORY is a film that never really takes off . It's not a bad film but is never as good as it could or should have been
From the outset there's a lack of motivation . New arrival Ron Decker finds himself in prison and Ayran Brotherhood leader Earl Copen takes a shine to him and becomes his mentor .. What's the motive ? Sex surely , but no this very obvious point is never brought up . Earl look after Ron because .... well just because . I'm reminded of an interview I read with a former jail bird who described " the San Quentin double cross " . This involves an older lag befriending a newbie who has been pressured by other prisoners in to having sex . The older lag promises the new arrival he'll have a word and take the pressure off the newbie but there's a price to this - the newbie has to agree to be the older prisoner's bitch - " It's them or me son so what's it gonna be ? " The name of this interviewee is none other than Edward Bunker which makes it doubly confusing that Earl is doing all this from the goodness of his heart and Ron doesn't feel the slightest suspicion . Even if you're a law abiding citizen who found your self in jail wouldn't you be suspicious at the way Earl fixes things while seemingly wanting anything in return . Perhaps the source novel explains this but the on screen explanation is conspicuous by its absence
That's the problem on a narrative level . The second problem is down to the director Steve Buscemi . Visually the film has the look and feel of a made for television production . The framing is very static and lacks any sort of flourish and looks more like a cheap 1970s production . The fact that there's some swearing and some violence doesn't make ANIMAL FACTORY feel any more cinematic . Perhaps the rather staid look of the movie is down to Buscemi want to make the performances come to the fore and the acting isn't bad but like everything else about the movie it could have been slightly better
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