Animal Factory (2000)

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Released 18-Jun-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 90:38
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steve Buscemi
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Willem Dafoe
Edward Furlong
Mickey Rourke
Tom Arnold
Danny Trejo
Seymour Cassel
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music John Lurie


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Steve Buscemi's second movie as director (Trees Lounge was his debut) is an interesting and thought-provoking movie about life in prison. Based on the novel by Ed Bunker about his incarceration, Buscemi takes the viewer on a very calculated journey through the boredom and routine of prison life as seen by the convicts. Although the underlying violence endemic within such a system is clearly visible, this is a movie that doesn't have a lot of action and the danger is presented in short, sharp bursts as a reminder of the brutality of prison life. What we do get is well-developed characters played by an ensemble cast who clearly enjoy their roles and make an excellent presentation.

    Willem DaFoe, suitably bald and evil looking is Earl Copen, the leader of a loose group of convicts that stick together for mutual protection and camaraderie. Into the mix comes Ron Decker (Edward Furlong), a naive 21 year old who is convicted of dope peddling and receives a severe 10 year sentence. His innocent looks are soon noticed by the other convicts who see an easy mark, but Copen intercedes on his behalf and there begins a slow relationship which develops into a friendship based on something other than the ruthlessness and violence that is evident all around them.

    Buscemi and director of photography Phil Parmet present us with a gritty, dirty, paint-peeling and decaying facade that is the prison in which the convicts must conduct their daily lives. There is a slow, inexorable passing of time that all the prisoners must endure. There are moments of violence, stabbings and beatings that are graphically presented but there is no sense of lingering upon these things and the movie quickly returns to the boredom surrounding the men. The movie includes excellent cameos from Tom Arnold as a redneck who senses an opportunity but picks the wrong mark, Mickey Rourke as Decker's transvestite cell mate who tries to offer him some home-spun wisdom and Seymour Cassel as Lieutenant Seeman, a guard who knows what is going on but wants nothing more than an easy time.

    Animal Factory is definately not a movie for people that like action, as this is a movie which intimates violence as an undercurrent rather than putting it in-your-face. Nonetheless, it is surprising how quickly I found the 90-odd minutes of this movie passing, which says a lot for the way in which it is acted. If I had one gripe about the movie, it was the ending which was just a little too unbelievable and contrived, but it remains a well-made movie that is worth a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Being a relatively new movie, this transfer offers very little in the way of problems which was one of the more pleasing aspects of my viewing. On the other hand, the starkness of the surroundings inside the prison offer very little in the way of variety, so there is a certain sameness on the whole about the transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    From the very beginning of the movie there appears to be excessive light being used, which spoils some of the vision slightly. The sharpness is very good, with only minor edge enhancement noticed (22:58 on Furlong's face) but not causing major distraction. Shadow detail is diminished by the lighting used in so many scenes, although occasionally you can make out the detail in the background where it hasn't been deliberately blurred out. Grain is minimal and rarely becomes noticeable, even when there is a lot of smoke and open blue skies. Low level noise isn't an issue.

    The colour suits the surroundings. The prison itself is very bland with lots of simple colour or lack thereof. Throughout the movie, the palette is varied without being excessive. There was no evidence of colour bleed or chroma noise.

    Another pleasing aspect of the transfer was the lack of film-to-video artefacts. Aliasing, moiré and MPEG artefacts were unseen throughout, probably due to a very reasonable bitrate (over 6mb/s average) and the fact that this is a recent release. There were the odd, occasional flecks to be seen, the only really bad ones coming at 26:28 and two large black spots at 72:00, but otherwise they were confined to the merest touches.

    The subtitles are pretty standard at the bottom eighth of the screen, although they've separated them to indicate who is speaking a little more than normal. The font is easily readable, but there are some minor inaccuracies between the spoken word and the subtitles, but nothing that could be considered too much of a problem.

    There is no layer change on this disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at a respectable bitrate of 448 kilobits per second.

    There were no problems with the dialogue per se, although in a lot of the movie it is hard to hear what is being said because the voices are so low that they are indistinguishable. That is more a problem with the quality of the soundtrack, though. Syncing was not an issue.

    The music is by John Lurie, who composed the music for Get Shorty, one of my favourite films. Surprisingly enough, this isn't one of his better efforts, with a lot of fairly discordant music meant to add dramatic tension but sounding more like someone using a chainsaw on the side of a building. It probably isn't as bad as I'm making it out, but it certainly isn't a soundtrack that will live long in my memory.

    The surround channels were used occasionally during the movie, mainly adding some depth to the atmospherics of the movie (eg 35:22 during the riot scene). For the most part, though, they are not highly utilised and don't bring a lot to bear on the overall quality of the audio track.

    As far as the .1 channel is concerned, I could detect no usage at all during the movie, although there was some activity, just so little and at such a low level that it hardly registered.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    A flat, static menu. Even the chapter listings are simple pictures without animation. The music loops about every 20 seconds.

Dolby Digital Trailer - Rain

    Easily the best of the Dolby trailers.

Theatrical Trailer

    A trailer with a running time of 1:10 in 1.33:1 full frame. It is a very clean trailer with surprisingly good sound, especially with the amount of surround work. It actually makes the movie look and sound very appealing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In true Region 4 style, it looks like we miss out on all the extras that the Region1 buyers get.

    If extras are your thing, or this appeals to you as a movie, then the Region 1 would be the disc of choice. Otherwise, for movie-only type people the local product might be the go.

Summary

Animal Factory is a well-acted and scripted movie that is well-paced even though it lacks a lot of action. Prison movies have been around a long time and Buscemi's vision doesn't attempt to mollycoddle what is the reality. If you like your movies dramatic, then this is definitely a good one to watch.

    The transfer is excellent visually, after the opening few minutes where the brightness is a little hard to take. Once it settles down, there is very little to complain about.

    The audio is a little monocentric at times, with little coming from the surrounds and almost nothing from the subwoofer. Still, for a heavily dialogue-based movie, this isn't too bad.

    There is a distinct lack of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDRotel RDV995, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Wayne F
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Web Wombat - James A
DVDownUnder - Kathryn T

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