It's all fun and games till the ending shoots the film in the foot.
Article first published as DVD Review: The Factory on Blogcritics.
It may seem as if John Cusack’s best days may be behind him. He has at least 10 projects lined up according to IMDB, but maybe he needs to take control of his features the way he did with Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. It was nice to see him venture into genre territory (The Raven, 2012, 1408, The Ice Harvest), but he sure seems to like his movies a little too dark lately. While War, Inc. was supposed to be an unofficial GPB sequel, there was simply no recapturing what worked so well and we still have to wait for the true further adventures of Martin Blank. JC deciding to make another comedic hitman movie a sequel does not make.
In the new direct-to-video feature The Factory, the film may still be as dark as he likes them nowadays, but his character, Mike Fletcher, feels more like Rob from High Fidelity. JC’s next feature also plants him in a cop role and seems destined straight to video also. In the meantime, The Factory has been dumped on DVD by producer Joel Silver under his Dark Castle Entertainment banner (originally home to such fare as the House on Haunted Hill, Thir13een Ghosts, and House of Wax remakes), and after you see the ending, it becomes all too clear as to what may have attracted at least Silver.
Mike Fletcher is a cop in Buffalo, NY, with a wife Shelley (Lost’s Sonya Walger), son Jed (Vincent Messina), and disgruntled daughter Abby (Mae Whitman). Over the last three years, Mike and his partner Kelsey Walker (Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter) have been investigating the disappearance of seven girls (mostly prostitutes). Every time they come close to a break in the case, it falls through. When a post-op transvestite goes missing, Mike and Kelsey stumble upon an LPN named Darryl (Gary Anthony Williams, who will always be “Smart Brother” from Undercover Brother to me) who has been stealing drugs related to pregnancy and prolonging life. Turns out, Darryl is in cahoots with the abductor, Gary (Dallas Roberts), and it’s just been made personal for Mike after Gary kidnaps Abby.
What was headed to be an above average procedural careens into a dead end once the finale kicks in. While the big plot twist is hilariously ludicrous, director/co-writer Morgan O’Neill had himself a reasonably entertaining thriller on his hands. But all the ending winds up as is set up for a sequel that will never see the light of day. Along with co-writer Paul Leyden, the two carried things along quite nicely until the absurdity takes over as not one, but two! big plot twists rear their ugly head and squash any kind of hope for a decent movie.
This is the kind of film that would have felt right at home back during the glut of Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls, The Bone Collector, and even Seven, were all the rage. Now, however, we expect a lot more from these types of films. This plays out more along the lines of a low-rent James Patterson adaptation. The ending probably would have worked in a novel, but it’s the lamest kind of reveal when used in a movie. The fact that whole story is “Inspired by Actual Events,” actually makes the whole film seem even funnier once the final shot cuts to black.
The Factory is suitably dark and moody thanks to Kramer Morgenthau’s cinematography and Mark Isham hits all the right notes with his score. Warner Bros. has released the DVD with absolutely no special features. All that’s included are skippable trailers before the main menu for the fantastic Beautiful Creatures (seriously, this needs your money); Cloud Atlas; Argo (2012’s Best Picture by far); Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2; Warner Bros.’ 90th Anniversary 100 and 50 Film Collections; and an ad for Ultra Violet (a code is included inside). The sound is presented solely in Dolby Digital 5.1 which features some room shaking LFE.
If you’re looking for something along the lines of the films I mentioned before you could do far worse. But if you’re a Cusack completest, there’s plenty to tide you over here until we finally see a true Grosse Pointe Blank sequel or the rumored Hot Tub Time Machine 2.