Blu-ray & DVD: Animal Factory (2000)
Based on the semi-autobiogahphical novel of the same name by Eddie Bunker and helmed by Steve Buscemi in only his 2nd time as director of a feature film, Animal Factory follows Ron Decker (Edward Furlong), a young man sentenced to 10 years in San Quentin State Prison for a drug dealing conviction, as he attempts to acclimatise to prison life. Taken under the wing of hardened prison veteran Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe), Ron’s increasing confidence finds him fending off sexual advances and physical attacks. Plotting to escape the filthy prison life, both Ron and Earl attempt to put together an escape plan with the help of fellow inmates.
Animal Factory is much more than the above synopsis suggests. Rather than concentrating on an escape plan narrative, ala Escape from Alcatraz, this hones in on the relationships and hardships which are forged during time in prison. Earl doesn’t HAVE to look after Ron, but he does and the consequences for doing so are shown in graphic detail further into the story. The permanent bubbling undercurrent of racism is shown in tense scenes both in the outdoor exercise area and in the canteen; all men together inside this dirty oppressive building, yet still separated by culture and colour of skin.
Furlong expresses the character arc of Decker very well; moving from the wide-eyed and introverted young man upon admission to the prison, into a cocky and confident inmate who has no qualms about extending his 10 year sentence with acts of violence against those who threaten him. Counterbalancing Decker is the old pro Earl Copen, played with more heart and soul by Willem Dafoe than the script affords him, which is testament to the acting chops that Dafoe possesses. Seen initially as just the ‘big man’ of the prison, he manages to show many facets to his character with just looks and body language.
A strong supporting cast includes Danny Trejo as…well…Danny Trejo really. But with real life prison time behind him, he looks as comfortable as anyone as he plays the part of Vito; a Mexican inmate who helps both Ron and Earl.
Tom Arnold cuts an intimidating figure as sexual predator Buck Rowan; a man who sets his sights on using and abusing Ron in any way that he wants. While Mickey Rourke is mesmerising as Jan; a woman trapped in a mans body whose main escape is not to get over the prison walls, but to escape the body that she is currently trapped in.
The action in Animal Factory is brief but hard hitting, with tense build-ups that have the palms of your hands sweating as you await the inevitable explosion that will surely happen at any moment.
With characters that you actually care about and featuring a great cast, Animal Factory is a prison drama that is well worth spending some time with.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• High Definition digital transfer
• Lossless original 2.0 stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Interview with critic Barry Forshaw covering Eddie Bunker’s varied career
• New bonus features TBC
• Audio commentary by novelist/co-writer/actor Eddie Bunker and co-producer/actor Danny Trejo
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacob Phillips
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Glenn Kenny
Animal Factory will be released on November 20th and you can buy it by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes!
Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films.