The Factory (2012)
The Factory (2012)
Director: Morgan O’Neill
Cast: John Cusack, Dallas Roberts, Vincent Messina
Synopsis: An obsessed cop is on the trail of a serial killer prowling the streets of Buffalo, N.Y. but when his teenage daughter disappears, he drops any professional restraint to get the killer.
Somehow, the words ‘inspired by actual events’ at the beginning of a movie are even more troubling than the legend ‘based on a true story.’ ‘Inspired by actual events’ is the sloppy little brother of ‘based on a true story,’ the lazy kid who cuts corners to get the job done, unthinking and uncaring of the certainty that his slapdash methods are sure to be exposed. A good chunk of fiction, both literary and cinematic, is inspired by actual events while making no claim to be rooted in reality, but filmmakers seem to insert that claim with abandon, hoping to provide their baby with a spurious authenticity. It’s a scam, of course. A blatant attempt on the part of the makers of movies like The Factory to con their audience into believing the incidents about to unfold on the screen actually took place in the real world at some time in the past.
John Cusack (The Paperboy, The Frozen Ground) is Mike Fletcher, a cop in Buffalo who, with his female partner, Kelsey (Jennifer Carpenter), is on the ice-cold trail of a serial killer who abducts prostitutes from the city streets but leaves no bodies for the cops to find. As the killer hasn’t struck for three years, Fletcher’s boss is on the verge of winding up the case as unsolved. But then a transsexual just three days away from his/her op goes missing, and Fletcher is convinced his man is back at work. He’s right, too, because a few scenes earlier we saw that luckless trannie skewered by the fire poker of a sick puppy named Carl (Dallas Roberts – 3:10 to Yuma, The Grey) who was just a little miffed to discover the sexy prostitute he picked up at an ATM was harbouring a few bonus goodies.
The Factory is, by this point, already looking just a little dated (partly because it spent five years gathering dust on a shelf before its 2012 DTV release) but has about it the look of a solid thriller nonetheless. Fletcher has a teenage daughter, Abby (Mae Whitman – Independence Day), who’s determination to date an older boy is driving his wife (Sonya Walger) nuts. It’s after having sneaked out of the house for an illicit date with her boyfriend that Abby runs into that serial killer her dad’s been hunting for the past few years (as you do) and wakes up in a basement with a couple of Carl’s earlier victims, both of whom have a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome.
It’s this aspect of The Factory’s story that is the most intriguing – and you get the feeling that it would have been an altogether stronger movie if the story had been told from the daughter’s viewpoint rather than that of the increasingly frazzled police detective and his sidekick. Ironically, the writing of the captive’s part of the story is also the weakest, perhaps hinting at the relative inexperience of director Morgan O’Neill and co-writer Paul Leyden, who seem to lose their way when they don’t have a template to work from. The film lacks tension, and the duo’s lack of confidence in their material is clear from the inclusion of at least one unnecessary race against time which sees Fletcher driving like a madman through snow-swept streets for no other reason than to try and liven things up a little.
All this is nothing, though, compared to the cataclysmic late twists which have the same impact on the movie as a grenade thrown into a lift. In all my years of movie-watching – and I’ve watched a lot of movies, only a fraction of which are reviewed on this site – I’ve never seen twists that are so mind-blowingly damaging to a movie. Seriously, they are so ridiculous that in one fell swoop they turn what was an average, uninspiring movie into an absolute disaster that really should be avoided.
(Reviewed 30th May 2015)