Troubled youth Ron Decker (Edward Furlong) is sentenced to a ten-year stint in the notorious San Quentin State Prison for a drug-dealing conviction. Inexperienced in the ways of prison life, he's taken under the wing of Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe), an experienced con with the entire prison in the palm of his hand inmates and guards alike. But as Ron grows increasingly cocky in his privileged role as Earl's confidant, is he in danger of biting off more than he can chew with some of the jail's more volatile inhabitants? Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Eddie Bunker, Animal Factory was Steve Buscemi's second stint in the director's chair and sees him marshaling a formidable ensemble cast, including Bunker, Danny Trejo and Mickey Rourke, for a powerful and sincere account of the men caught up in the penal system and the deals they cut with each other, and themselves, in order to survive. (Arrow Films)


Reviews (5)


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English Steve Buscemi takes a stab at directing now and then, and he's not very good at it. Yet in this film, he surprises us. This is definitely a gritty film. Buscemi also chose his actors well, with Dafoe and Furlong fitting into the storyline, even if Furlong is too much of a pretty boy at the beginning. In the end, though, he handled his role just fine. ()


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English A young man played by Furlong is arrested for selling marijuana and becomes emotionally close to the experienced convict Willem Dafoe, who takes him under his wing to prevent him from becoming someone's bitch, a threat that is is clear, because Furlong's youthful looks are like a magnet for the horny criminals and perverts that abound in prison. The story is by no means original, but the prison setting is absolutely perfect, the atmosphere properly dense and, most importantly, my favourite Willem Dafoe as the bald Earl has charisma to spare. The stifling mood of the film is supported by an interesting soundtrack. ()



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English In the prison drama subgenre, there is decent competition in American cinema and there is still a lot missing for Animal Factory to break into the top tier, especially a more developed ending and an overall more polished screenplay. However, it does have a strong cast led by the experienced Willem Dafoe and well-cast actors in supporting roles (Danny Trejo). Overall impression: 70%. ()


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English A very distinctive and modest film that at first glance impresses only with its attractive cast. Especially Willem Dafoe as the "ruler of hell" has tremendous charisma and it is he who carries most of the story on his shoulders. But he’s ably seconded by the young Furlong and the hideous transvestite Mickey Rourke, whom I didn't recognize at all. Buscemi doesn't rush anywhere, he tells the story patiently and slowly, focusing primarily on the content rather than the resulting effect on the audience. His Animal Factory is a film that is beautiful to watch, passes by quickly and, thanks to the well-developed psychology and character of the protagonists, is easy to immerse oneself in, but unfortunately, it's awfully obvious that it's still a movie, and I didn't buy the idyllic and friendly setting inside the prison walls, not to mention the final escape, which everyone must have improvised on the spot. And that’s why I have to stick to a lower rating. ()


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English A smaller and grittier The Shawshank Redemption. I haven't liked Defoe since I was a kid, but he was perfect here, Danny Trejo is my secret crush, and I like Rourke too, even though I didn't recognize him at all here. The direction is decent and tries not to take your eyes off the camera, so scenes like the razor in the shower, or the close-up of the slashing of the vein, for example, will make the weaker characters turn away with a guffaw. Some of the glimpses of prison life are hard to believe and I didn't really buy them, but what the hell... It was a hell of a good watch, and the last line of the film, "Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven," pretty much sums up what this is all about. ()

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