John Cusack's film career follows a predictable pattern. He'll sign up for mainstream fare like 2012 and Con Air in order to tackle more personal projects like Grace is Gone and The Raven.
That hardly explains The Factory, a Cusack thriller freed from the proverbial shelf just in time for its DVD and download release Feb. 19.
It's hard to imagine Cusack finding any personal or artistic reasons to star in such a dumbed down thriller with shades of Silence of the Lambs. He certainly couldn't predict the film, with its low-rent budget and grungy storyline, had anything approaching mass appeal.
Cusack plays Det. Mike Fletcher, a Buffalo cop busy chasing a local serial killer for the past three years. The case becomes personal when his teen daughter Abby (Mae Whitman, Parenthood), is kidnapped by, presumably, the very same killer. Can Mike and his trusty partner (Jennifer Carpenter, Dexter) find Abby before she meets the same fate as the other abducted women?
Dallas Roberts plays the killer, a southern gent with some extreme "daddy" issues. To say more would spoil an already curdled plot and possibly give away the kookiest twist ending in recent memory. Roberts supplies the proper dosage of sleaze, but almost everything about The Factory reeks of a hurried first draft rushed to production.
Mike's police work is perfunctory, the characters aren't allowed much depth and the killer's master plan is downright daffy. Cusack's cop occasionally loses control, trashing his office or ranting out of the blue to conjure a father's rage at his daughter's disappearance. We're not buying it.
Cusack is always eager to stretch as an actor, but the results often don't justify his ambitions. He failed to summon the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven, and with The Factory he cannot convey the anguish of a father tracking his stolen child.
The film's mean spirit also gets in the way, beginning with the torture sequences and stretching through to the name-calling directed at a heavyset character.
Nothing Cusack can do makes The Factory convincing, but it's lurid story will still keep your attention. The surprise ending is such a monumental head-scratcher it almost lifts the film into must-see territory for cinematic rubber-neckers. Almost.