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Mark Boone Junior,
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
Low key but interesting prison drama. Recommended.
As a fan of Steve Buscemi's underrated 'Trees Lounge', his acting, and of many of his co-stars in this movie, I eagerly anticipated watching 'Animal Factory'. I thought it was going to be a confronting and violent prison story, mainly because of the involvement of Edward Bunker ('Runaway Train', 'Reservoir Dogs'), who adapts his own novel (with the help of scriptwriter John Steppling, who also co-wrote the excellent '52 Pick-Up'). However, the movie was a lot more low key, character driven and less confrontational than I had expected. Even so, it's still very good.
Buscemi himself only has a small acting role in the movie (as does Bunker), the real stars being Willem Dafoe ('Light Sleeper', ) as a savvy long term convict, and Edward Furlong ('Pecker') as the young inmate who becomes his protege. Dafoe and Furlong are supported by an impressive cast of character actors, including Buscemi cronies Seymour Cassel ('Rushmore'), Mark Boone, Jr ('Memento') and the late Rockets Redglare ('Down By Law'), all 'Trees Lounge' veterans, ex-con tough guy Danny Trejo ('Heat'), John Heard ('After Hours'), and impressive cameos from Tom Arnold ('True Lies') as a psycho rapist, and Mickey Rourke ('Barfly') as a flamboyant transvestite. Rourke, one of the finest actors of his generation, will hopefully get his career back on track if the solid work he displays here and his notable cameo in 'The Pledge' is anything to go by.
'Animal Factory' is a first rate effort from Buscemi, who joins Sean Penn and Vincent Gallo as the most promising actors turned directors currently making American movies. More power to him, and I hope his next project makes it to the screen sometime soon. In today's current climate of cinematic mediocrity and childish blockbusters we need more film makers like them with passion, intelligence and integrity.
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