Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Factory

The copyright date on THE FACTORY is 2008. Warner Brothers released it straight to DVD in 2013. No film that the studio thinks is good or can make money sits on a shelf for five years. Of course, studio executives aren’t always right, and it’s possible a smart, exciting thriller could slip through the cracks, a genuinely good movie whose charms somehow eluded the men and women at Warners paid well to identify them.

Nope. They were right.

The basic premise by Aussie soap actors Morgan O’Neill and Paul Leyden strains credulity. Buffalo, New York is overrun by a three-year string of “sex murders,” yet the screenplay tells us that seven prostitutes have vanished during that time and no bodies have ever appeared. So how do investigating detective Mike Fletcher (John Cusack) and his partner Kelsey (DEXTER’s Jennifer Carpenter) know there even are sex murders or that one person is responsible? Maybe the victims left town or died some other way.

Maybe O’Neill, who also directed, and Leyden told them. Because, yeah, there is a creep in Buffalo kidnapping streetwalkers. And he’s into some sick stuff. Gary (Dallas Roberts, THE GOOD WIFE’s gay brother Owen) brainwashes his victims and impregnates them. The women are psychologically dependent on Gary—they call him “daddy”—and after he rapes them, he hangs them upside-down so “everything will flow properly.”

Mike’s obsession with his work (like every other movie cop) interferes with his family life with wife Shelly (LOST’s Sonya Walger), young son Jed (Vincent Messina), and rebellious teen daughter Abby (Mae Whitman, PARENTHOOD’s resident weeper who gets to whine and cry more here). It’s no surprise that Abby becomes Gary’s latest victim, snatched right off the street after an argument with her college-age boyfriend (Michael Trevino). The climax’s “shocking” twist isn’t even a surprise, given how clumsily O’Neill delivers early exposition that could exist only to telegraph a later shock.

Filmed in frigid Montreal, THE FACTORY succeeds at delivering a snowy atmosphere for O’Neill’s sordid story. Likely inspired by SAW, the filmmakers present seriously icky material without much style or creative thought. As is increasingly his habit, Cusack (THE NUMBERS STATION) seems detached and uninvolved, though the rest of the main players are okay. Carpenter is stuck with an especially silly role, and she earns kudos for making it halfway believable. THE FACTORY is stupid and poorly told, but just outlandish enough to prevent it from becoming boring.

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