Steve Buscemi is one of Hollywood’s great character actors. He can bring comedy, menace, kindness or any other trait required to any role he is given. But aside from being a great actor, many people still don’t know he is a talented and accomplished director as well. He made a splash in 1996 when he wrote and directed the indie gem Trees Lounge and he has since directed a great deal for TV including episodes for Oz, The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, and Portlandia. But 4 years after Trees Lounge he directed what I think is his best work behind the camera with Animal Factory, now available in a stunning new special edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Troubled young man Ron (Edward Furlong) is sentenced to 10 years in the notorious San Quentin State Prison. Naïve in the ways of prison life, he is taken in by an experienced and powerful inmate named Earl (Willem Dafoe) who seems to have the whole prison at his beck and call. But Ron will have to tread carefully if he is to survive inside, one false step could cost him his life.
Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Eddie Bunker (Reservoir Dogs), Animal Factory is simply one of the best prison movies out there. Furlong proves he could act with the big boys sharing the screen with veteran Dafoe as well as Danny Trejo, Mark Boone Junior, Tom Arnold, John Heard, and Mickey Rourke in one of the strangest and best performances he has ever given. Buscemi directed with a confident hand and crafts a prison tale that feels authentic.
The new special edition from Arrow features a beautiful hi def transfer, an interview with critic Barry Forshaw covering Eddie Bunker’s varied career, an audio commentary by novelist/co-writer/actor Eddie Bunker and co-producer/actor Danny Trejo which is worth the price alone, and the theatrical trailer. Animal Factory is a lesser seen work of Buscemi and Dafoe’s but is well worth seeking out and highly recommended.