Skipping theaters and debuting on DVD free of digital bells and whistles, the Dark Castle Entertainment thriller exactly lacking in famous faces, with John Cusack and Jennifer Carpenter in the leads as partnering police detectives in snowy Buffalo, N.Y.
Mike Fletcher (Cusack, The Raven) is an 18-year veteran of the force obsessed with a longtime case he’s been unable to crack, involving missing prostitutes. Because the young women toil in the world’s oldest profession, he feels nobody else gives a damn about finding them.
Unlike a lot of thrillers, The Factory doesn’t keep the identity of the culprit a secret. He’s revealed at the start as Gemeaux (Dallas Roberts, TV’s The Walking Dead), who trolls the streets for hookers he takes home for a reason different from their usual customers. The movie reveals that fairly early, too, but it’s such a whacked-out concept, I’ll leave it be.
Through an act of incredible narrative convenience, Fletcher’s rebellious teen daughter (Mae Whitman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) ends up as Gemeaux’s latest prey.
As directed and co-written by Australian actor/filmmaker Morgan O’Neill, the sleek Factory bears a slight retro kick — one that harkens back to the post-Silence of the Lambs wave of copycats — like, well, Copycat — in which Hollywood rushed to create as many serial-killer thrillers as the marketplace would support.
For much of the ride, O’Neill’s work is enjoyable — wonderfully shot and appropriately creepy, although one can sense Cusack’s notorious contempt bubbling within. He doesn’t quite give it his all, but as always, he’s welcome to watch. Complementing his role is Carpenter, and while she’s playing yet another cop, she’s thankfully not playing her as she does on TV’s Dexter.
Without hitting a jackpot, The Factory churns along on such a consistent level that I couldn’t understand why it bypassed theaters. And then that twist ending hit. So jaw-dropping wrongheaded it saps viewer goodwill in an instant, it’s the biggest extended middle finger to an audience since 2007’s The Mist. It spits in the face of logic as it spits in yours. —Rod Lott