A petty car thief in a small Southern Ohio town gets involved in an underground game of life and death.
Every great story has an arc, a journey that at least one of its characters experience, ensuring that their lives, outlooks or perspectives are different to when the film began. Even if it’s not shoved into your face, this is true for most films you watch and known or unknown to you, is what makes you, as the viewer, enjoy a film. Without this journey a film simply meanders through its runtime, never moving ahead with actually story or growth, but simply existing. Such is the issue with Union Furnace, a bleak and dull movie that merely exists amongst a slew of films with a similar plot and a far superior execution of it.
Cody is a petty crook trying to make an honest living stealing cars. He crosses paths with a peculiar gentleman known only as Lion, who promises Cody untold wealth if he is willing to take part in a “special” event. Cody owes money to many people so the chance of winning big is more than enough to lure Cody into this underground realm.
Cody and a number of other “contestants” find themselves at the mercy of numerous masked people betting on the contestants who have to partake in various games that increase in severity and macabreiness as the rounds progress. Those who come last are dispatched by the highest bidder. As the contestants dwindle down to only a few, Cody must dig deep to make it to the finals. Does he have what it takes?
“That was a brief overview of the movie, Mr. Caps” You may be saying, well that’s because there is absolutely nothing else that transpires in this dull movie. There are no B-stories, no exciting twists, no arcs, no character development, no political messages, no grey matter ticklers. We literally spend 5 minutes learning about Cody’s money issues and go straight into the “games” until the very end. To the film’s credit it was a solidly shot and acted movie, it’s just a shame the script was incredibly weak and undermined everything else.
What we are led to believe is our protagonist is dull and un-investible. You don’t care about Cody as he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He doesn’t steal because he needs money to help his sick mum or some other noble cause, he steals because he has gambling issues. We learn nothing about his life, his family, his loves, nothing to make us connect to him in any way, shape or form so you could care less if he lives or dies. Cody doesn’t even arc. He doesn’t learn anything or become a better person. The reason he agrees to the games is to earn enough to pay his debts, which is well and good, but as the film progresses he doesn’t learn the error of his ways, if he wins he just wants to take the money and double it at the tables, not to start afresh or to better his life. Why would a viewer care about a character who can’t learn from his mistakes and grow? No other character arcs either and are just as underdeveloped, so you care even less about them.
With no one single character to back, Union Furnace relies on your base instinct of “People are killing these guys for no reason, and they only want to get money because they’re in financial distress, that’s not right to kill them”, but for a film this shouldn’t be the basis to attempt to make the viewer care. We need more. Much more. A good script takes your base instincts and builds on them, explores them, unravels them. Union Furnace does none of this.
The story itself meanders the whole runtime so you feel as uninterested and dull as Cody appeared during the entire film. You have a number of scenes with mundane dialog that neither progress the story nor develop a character any further, no ulterior motives are utilized and no real conflict is even explored. You have the obvious conflict of people disagreeing with what’s happening, etc, but it’s all the bare minimum the writer could muster. The obvious conflict any person would imagine to transpire in the situation. Nothing unique or out of the ordinary transpires. Nothing that makes the film pop or become interesting occurs.
The plot was there and countless films before this prove that such a plot can make for an extremely entertaining film, regardless of its budget (so budget can’t be blamed here). It’s just the script for Union Furnace was severely underdeveloped. It really needed more work on its characters and plotting before it was digitized.
Would I watch this again? Never. It is nothing more than a show-reel for the actors. I can honestly say that 80% of this film could have been cut and you’d still end up with the same story and ending and not feel like you missed a thing. That is a sure sign of an underdeveloped and weak script.
Would I recommend this film to anyone? Do you even need to ask? If you enjoy these style of movies, watch 13 Sins as that is a far better and entertaining film with a similar plot.
1 out of 5 lion masks