Furnace DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Genius Products

Look, toy cop, don't you have some corruption you need to be handling? – Inmate to Miller.

Directed by William Butler
Written by William Butler, Aaron Stongoni and Scott Aronson
2006, 85 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on February 12th, 2008

Michael Paré as Michael Turner
Jeffery "Ja Rule" Atkins as Terrence
Jennifer McShane as Dr. Ashley Carter
Kelly Stables as Karen Bolding
Danny Trejo as Fury
Paul Wall as Joey Robbins
Tom Sizemore as Frank Miller


As the credits open in Furnace, newspaper clippings come across the screen with headings like "Entire Dutch Settlement Missing", "Small Camp Massacre – Children Gone", and "Inmate Screams Ten Minutes After Being Executed". Disregard those — they have nothing to do with the movie.

Furnace isn't about the next (or previous) disappearing town. Nor is it about Indian burial grounds. What Furnace is about is the recent rise of suicides (or mysterious deaths that appear to be suicides) at the Blackgate Prison (the amazing Tennessee State Prison, probably most famous to movie fans as the location for films such as The Last Castle and The Green Mile). Sent to investigate, Detective Michael Turner (Michael Paré – Bloodrayne II) teams up with prison psychiatrist Ashley Carter (Jennifer McShane – Shark Attack III: Megalodon), and the two uncover why a decades old secret has released its evil upon the general population.

I like to think I can find something likeable in about every movie I watch, but sometimes that's a real, real tough thing to do. Especially with movies as bad as this one, where every time I found something enjoyable, it was immediately taken from my hands by some cock-up. Like Tom Sizemore.

I have always liked Tom Sizemore's character roles, because they never fail to make me laugh (in a good way). Here, Sizemore plays Miller, former detective knocked down to prison guard due to some shady on-the-job actions. It's a typical role for Sizemore — badass with a touch of cynical humor and, where it has always worked before, it falls flat here because of the sorry excuse for a script.

A perfect example of this is when Miller is standing in the prison yard, contemplating life's myserious, when he sees an inmate looking at him.

"What up man? Why don't you get a hobby. Like not looking at me."

There's a brief pause as the convict starts walking away. Then Miller says:

"Not looking at me. It's a hobby."

Good thing it was repeated, just in case you missed it the first time. The pisser is, Sizemore's delivery is just fine, and funny, when he first says the line. The second time he becomes That Guy who says something funny, gets a laugh, then repeats it hoping for the same effect. We all know how that goes. It wouldn't be that bad if it just happened on that one occasion, but, sadly, we get repeated deliveries a couple of times throughout the film.

But the script isn't the only thing that's wrong with Furnace. The directing and editing do great jobs in crippling Furnace, too. It's bad enough the actors seem awkward in their roles (the inevitable love scene between Turner and Bolding is so forced and clumsy even the actors look embarrassed), but some of the cuts—or reasons for them—just make no sense. One scene in particular has Turner poking around in the old, unused part of the prison, when he falls into the furnace, where he sees a skull staring back at him—cut to the new scene. I can dig the cutaway, since the obvious goal is to create tension. But it makes zero sense that the scene cut to is shots of the prison yard. Nothing going on, nothing furthering the plot, just a seventeen-second shot of the yard. Then back to Turner. It's editing like this that makes it feel like amateur hour, except the only difference is there's no clown with a big hook dragging Furnace off stage, saving the audience from more suck.

I could easily go on and on and on, but it would be pointless, and my arms would get tired of beating the horse.

However, if you still plan on checking out Furnace because you are a Ja Rule fan, don't. While his face is the biggest on the box, there is a simple reason why I didn't mention him: He's not in the film that much. Same goes for Danny Trejo. This is just a case of the studio suckering the fans into a rental/purchase with some shady advertising. Nothing to see here, move along.

And that applies to the movie, too. Skip this entirely, as there's no heat in this Furnace.

Video and Audio:

Furnace has a soft 1.85:1 anamorphic picture, with some mosquito noise popping now and then. It's often a bit dark in places, but this seems to be more of inadequate lighting on the filmmakers' part.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital gets it done. There are a few nice uses of the surrounds, but nothing crazy.

English subtitles are available.

Special Features:

  • 6 Alternate Scenes
  • Cast Interviews (Danny Trejo, Tom Sizemore, Ja Rule)
  • Easter Egg

The six alternate scenes aren't saving this film any, so they can be skipped.

The interviews, hands down, are the most uncomfortable interviews I've seen in recent memory. Each actor answers questions posed by someone off-camera. You don't for the most part hear the interviewer, so the questions are provided for you onscreen. Some of the delightful, thought-provoking questions asked to Danny Trejo include "Do you like horror movies?" and "Have you ever been in a horror movie?" Wow. I have to give credit to the person who threw this together, though, for finally catching and correcting the spelling of "role" before the interviews were finally over. Final tally: Roll – 2, Role – 2.

But the absolute, hands-down, unequivocal best part of this entire DVD is the Tom Sizemore interview. Unedited, uncomfortable and unbelievable, Sizemore takes every question asked of him and turns it into a tangent completely unrelated to what's asked. It's like watching an interview with Charlie Manson—and just as entertaining. Sizemore is a goddamn genius. Hell, maybe you should rent this DVD, if only for Sizemore's 20 minutes of inflection.

There are trailers for The Last Winter, Storm Warning, Croc, Maneater and Furnace.

I didn't bother tracking down the easter egg; there's only so much punishment I can take.


Movie: Grade Cover
Video: Grade
Audio: Grade
Features: Grade
Overall: 2 Star Rating

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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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