Steve Buscemi's follow-up to his rightfully acclaimed 1996 film Trees Lounge is The Shawshank Redemption without the Stephen King twistiness, but an effective, potent prison picture all the same. Buscemi directs with assurance, and leads Willem Dafoe and Edward Furlong wonderfully convey aggression and compassion with equal measure, elevating the film to a higher level than the standard prison flick. One of the movie's strengths is its offbeat casting, including Mickey Rourke as a cross-dressing inmate, and Tom Arnold as a hillbilly rapist -- surprisingly, this works to the film's advantage. Even though Animal Factory doesn't offer a new perspective on life in the lockup, it's well-crafted and furthers Buscemi's considerable talents behind the camera. In an odd decision, the film was snatched up by cable television, where it played after a limited release around the country -- peculiar, considering its warm reception at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.
by Jason Clark review