At first glance, Furnace looks a lot like just about any other anonymous, single-titled, independently produced down-market action thriller, especially given the fact that its cast consists of Ja Rule, Tom Sizemore, Michael Paré and Danny Trejo. It’s got a hearty injection of possessed-machinery-gone-wrong horror, though, making for strong (if wholly undesired) recollections of 1995’s righteously awful The Mangler. Directed by William Butler (Madhouse), Furnace is a mash-up of copped moves, familiar characters and generally underwhelming special effects and execution — a combination which overwhelms the mostly sincere efforts of a game cast.
While investigating a series of deaths inside a maximum-security prison, Detective Michael Turner (Paré) uncovers a nightmare more threatening than the hardened criminals serving time — a group that includes Terrence (Ja Rule) and Fury (Trejo) — or the rogue prison guard, Frank Miller (Sizemore), who runs drugs for the inmates. Behind the walls, you see, lies a supernatural force hellbent on revenge — making for a rising body count that matches the rising temperature.
Furnace claims to be inspired by real events, but the set-ups and the movie’s dialogue, penned by Butler and co-writers Aaron Strongoni and Scott Aronson, are all of the wildly signposted and underlined emotion variety. Production designer Chad Keith does what he can to mask the low budget, but Furnace simply doesn’t have the capital to create a convincing backdrop, and Butler doesn’t downwardly adjust his vision or visual plan accordingly. The result is a movie with a few pockets of watchability, but also some real howler-type sequences.
Furnace comes presented in 16×9 widescreen, with an English language 4.1 surround sound audio track, and is housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover. In addition to an 80-second trailer for the movie, there are also previews for a quartet of other flicks, and a modest collection of six deleted scenes. By far the best supplemental extra, though, is a collection of cast interviews with Sizemore, Trejo and Ja Rule. The latter two segments run four-and-a-half and 14 minutes, respectively, and feature static interstitial cards indicating the offscreen questioner’s query, like “What is your roll [sic] in the film?” Sizemore’s 17-minute sit-down, though, is truly fascinating, partly because he’s totally candid and honest about his recent legal and substance abuse problems, and partly because he still seems a missed bout of medication or two away from snapping, as when he notes, gesturing offscreen, “There was a time when people would make too much noise, like this, and I’d get angry, but that’s OK…” There’s also a one-minute Easter egg bonus, accessible via the main screen, of the little girl, in crispy make-up, who plays the embodiment of the haunted furnace. For more information on the movie, click here. C- (Movie) C+ (Disc)