January 2018


Animal Factory
Arrow Films/MVD
Blu-ray Review By: Jaime Pina

Edward Bunker is one of the most interesting figures in the world of books and film. He was a career criminal for much of his life. He was the youngest convict to enter San Quentin. While incarcerated he began an interest in writing since he passed much of his time reading. After finally being published he decided to change his life and became a writer in earnest and was a success going on to become an author, screenwriter, actor and icon.

This film is based on Bunker’s second book. Directed by Steve Buscemi, it finds co-screenwriter Bunker drawing on his experiences in prison to tell a story of a young man played by Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, Detroit Rock City) going into the joint for the first time. New to the life, when it is clear he is about to be targeted by predators he is looked after by an older convict played by Willem Dafoe (The Loveless, To Live And Die In LA). The film was shot in Philly and many real convicts were enlisted to be extras with co-producers Bunker and Danny Trejo in supporting roles. It’s a stripped down, rough and tumble production with Buscemi pulling some seamless performances from his cast big and small. There are several special little moments that Buscemi stages including a musical interlude with Antony Hegarty (now Anohni) and Mickey Rourke as a cross dressing convict spinning yarns to the young man and just being fabulous. These are just a couple of gems in this treasure chest of celluloid excellence. Buscemi has taken Bunker’s story and delivered a tough as nails film with heart and that’s part of what makes Bunker’s work so special.

The film looks spectacular with Buscemi’s choice of warm colors just glowing from the screen. This is an ugly place to be but Buscemi films it as it probably was for the convicts. It’s business as usual with some sunny days and bright interiors. This film was somewhat overlooked upon release and is still searching for that appreciative audience and this release is a perfect way to discover this little masterpiece. Dafoe, Trejo, Rourke and even that kid from the Terminator flick all turn in masterful performances. The soundtrack by John Lurie of The Lounge Lizards is top notch and evocative of the moods Buscemi was out to capture. The extras include a raw and revealing commentary with Trejo and Bunker, a discussion of Edward Bunker by critic Barry Forshaw and a theatrical trailer.