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What’s it About?

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.

“The Factory”

Vic’s Note: “The Factory” is currently available for Instant Streaming on Netflix. Enjoy!

Directed by Morgan O’Neill

By Vic

Australian Writer and Director Morgan O’Neill who brought us “Solo” back in 2006 helms this serial killer crime drama which stars the ever reliable John Cusack (The Raven) as Detective Mike Fletcher and the award winning Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter, Quarantine) as his partner Kelsey. Along with soap opera actor Paul Leydon, O’Neill crafts a serviceable thriller that moves at a good pace, sports good performances and average chills but eventually it getsย  bit bogged down in formula and ever apparent mediocrity.

Mike is a hardened and seasoned Detective and family man that resides in Buffalo, New York and is working hard on a case close to his heart and soul. The disappearances of several local young women. He has turned his shed/garage into his office and has posters, pictures, maps and the like pinned up all along the walls. He and his wife are not good at communicating and his daughter, Abby (Mae Whitman from Arrested Development) is rebellious, angry and hiding an important secret.

The film takes place during the Thanksgiving holiday and even though Mike tries hard to referee everyone, he becomes jaded while investigating the case that has been puzzling the BPD. Kelsey (Carpenter) has her own issues as well. Mike invites her to dinner and she stays a while but eventually leaves and spends a lonely night back at her apartment. It seems that Kelsey, while a good cop and very kind, cannot have children and has a desk stacked with books about fertility.

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Abby, troubled, makes her way to a Diner where her on and off again boyfriend Tad (Micheal Trevino from The Vampire Diaries) works and gets some bad news from him regarding their relationship. In a rage she storms out of the Diner and while trying to light her cigarette in a snow storm gets singled out by a very seedy and dangerous fellow named Gary (Dallas Roberts of The Walking Dead). Apparently he was at the Diner as well copping prescription drugs from a Nurse he has over a barrel. When Tad looks back outside he notices that Abby is gone, having been taken by force by Gary.

When Mike and Kelsey find out the bad news things get very complicated since now a family member of Mike’s is now missing and he must try every avenue and resource he has in order to find his daughter. O’Neill establishes a few things right out of the gate. Gary has a thing for young women and upon finding out a woman he had persuaded to go to his apartment, is not really a woman, kills her in a rage. He is a complete loony but for me we see the “Monster” too early and it kills the suspense a bit. I feel it would have been better had we been gradually introduced to Gary by his actions kind of how Demme handled Buffalo Bill. Roberts, too, doesn’t feel very threatening.

Yeah, he chains up Abby and has 2 other women in his basement, one of which is pregnant. But he seems so geeky and wimpy that sometimes I found myself yelling at Abby to just kick his ass. Particularly during a dinner scene where he and Abby are alone in the same room. He just isn’t that imposing. Gary, Abby figures out, is trying to impregnate women with the help of the Nurse who is providing him with drugs for fertility.

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Cusack elevates the material somewhat but I felt that he just became too reactionary too suddenly and didn’t get a chance to really act or shine here. He just falls into the hole ofย  repetition and becomes a bit of type. There are times where Cusack looks a bit unsteady or unfocused and I fear it was the script. Carpenter and he have really cool chemistry and she really bites into Kelsey making her unique and strong. In typical fashion, Carpenter gives it her all and when she is onscreen with Cusack she actually helps him appear better as the film becomes mired in routine.

Even as we watch Mike unravel we don’t feel that much for him. We feel more for those trapped by Gary even though those women we don’t really like either. As we find out Abby’s secret we do start to care for her and when Cusack puts his clues together and finds out where she and the others are kept, the film re-energizes a bit and becomes once more a tightly woven story. What I did enjoy is that we are kept guessing until the very end about Gary’s motives and there is a hell of a twist that I must say, I did not see coming. But I didn’t dig the whole “scene by scene” breakdown and flashback of every little clue that lead up to the discovery and revelation. It is a trick device that has outlived it’s welcome and I felt it was insulting my intelligence.

In the end the film takes a weird spin that I’m still kind of grappling with. It’s a strange tonal shift that I’m still ambivalent about. I liked “The Factory” but just barely. Even Cusack can’t really give this piece the oomph it needed but Carpenter and the twist are why I would recommend this routine serial killer flick if only for a one time watch. Try it as a rental first before buying!

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