It’s a crying shame when you see some actors’ projects being quietly dumped into the stream rather than released in theaters. Such is becoming the fate of films featuring John Cusack. The question we have to ask, is it justified?
For three years, prostitutes have been disappearing during the winter in Buffalo, New York. Detective Mike Fletcher (John Cusack) believes it to be the work of a serial killer, but neither he nor his partner Kelsey Walker (Jennifer Carpenter) have any definitive proof and the department is looking to sweep the investigation and Mike’s theories under the rug.
With the first snowfall, Carl (Dallas Roberts) snatches his first victim, but she doesn’t meet his needs and his search begins again. Mike uses the abduction as justification to keep at it, neglecting his family in the process. When his daughter Abby (Mae Whitman) disappears and the abductor’s m.o. matches his would-be perp, Mike’s obsession consumes him, and no one, not even Kelsey can stop him from solving the case.
Produced by Dark Castle Entertainment and filmed in 2008, The Factory finally found a home on DVD in early 2013 after being pushed back from a 2011 theatrical release. Unlike last week’s “based on a true story” film, The Factory is inspired by actual events which allows for embellishments for the sake of entertainment and foregoes having to pay anyone for their story.
The tale, penned by Paul Leyden and the director Morgan O’Neill, is dark, disturbing and tense. I’m a sucker for a well thought out thriller. The Factory contains a few minor points to question and quibble over; the biggest for some will be the exploitative cliche of the protagonist’s family conveniently drawn into the clutches of the antagonist. Even so, the alternating moments of the hero’s endeavor and the villain’s maneuvering stresses the urgency of that ticking clock and helps keep viewers on edge.
Not sure if beat down and ragged is Cusack’s look nowadays or if it was just for the role, but either way Mike looks rough. The toll that chasing this careful, devious criminal shows, and with the abduction of his daughter, you can tell it’s anger and vengeance fueling his every move. Kelsey worries for Mike’s safety and chastises him routinely for leaving her out of the loop. Carpetner’s Kelsey is a far cry from the bull-headed force of nature that she played on Dexter, but this dance is mainly between Mike, Carl and Abby. Dallas Roberts’s Carl is one creepy SOB, and plays up being more manipulative than menacing. Though twenty at the time, Mae Whitman’s seventeen year old angst and frustration as Abby is clear. It takes a while for Abby to get her bearings, but it’s rousing when she gets tough in favor of waiting for rescue.
By the end, The Factory left me with a few questions; the most important being why wasn’t this a theatrical release? Granted, I don’t think it would have been a huge box office draw, but it could have been an early year release actually worth watching. Maybe the title killed it’s momentum, it is by far the most confounding aspect of The Factory. Bad title and direct-to-DVD stigma aside, if you find yourself looking for some disturbing, late night thrills this is just the ticket.