Prepare to gamble everything, including your life, in this indie thriller from director Nicholas Bushman.
Down and out petty thief Cody has nothing going for him. After stealing a local pastor’s car, he finds himself being chased by a mysterious man. Crashing the car into a tree, the mysterious man offers him a ride back to his hotel. There, the mystery man offers Cody an offer that he will not be able to refuse. Cody answers a call, which he thinks is a job. However, he soon learns that it is not a job, but something very unexpected.
Covered with a bag over his head, Cody learns he is one of eight people chosen for a deadly game. A group of masked people are the audience with a man in a lion mask as the emcee for this game, which starts out with a simple board game. The seven who win the game are led to a back room where they are given money. However, as the group dwindles with each game getting deadlier, the sanity of those surviving begins to become questioned. Who will be the final winner of this sadistic life or death game?
The use of games as devices for potential victims have been a staple in recent horror films, notably the Saw films. However, this film does bring quite a bit of originality as it goes from one main character to a potential eight main characters. It is an interesting concept as the film starts out with Cody, a petty thief, doing his job and then finds himself offered a chance to make money only to become one of eight players in a deadly game which brings something very intriguing in terms of how one by one, the players dwindle and for a while, the fates of the “losers” are never seen until an hour into the film.
The cast of the film actually performs quite good in this film. Our original protagonist is played by the film’s producer and co-writer, Mike Dwyer, who starts out as a main character who turns into one of eight main character, in this case the contestants of the so-called game of life and death. However, if one actor truly stands out as extremely worthy of his performance, that honor goes to producer Seth Hammond, who makes his acting debut as Lion, the emcee of the game. Hammond looks like he is having so much fun in the role, even giving the audiences (both in the film and the viewers) some fun gags to break away from the insanity of the film.
Some stand outs within the cast include Clowntown’s Katie Keene as a young mother who is part of the game because she is looking to help her two young children; Hollywood veteran Keith David as a down on his luck gambler; and Kevin Crowley as a tough guy character. The film’s extras in the game are not seen as well as they all sport various masks. The finale even breaks a bit of convention in terms of execution and brings a bit of a surprising value in this indie film.
Union Furnace may come out via description like a Saw-ripoff perhaps. However, it is truly not like it and while there are some great performances, Seth Hammond truly is the breakout star as the emcee of this life or death game. This is once game you may want to place your bets on seeing.
WFG RATING: B
Metropol Pictures present a Broadview Features Development production. Director: Nicholas Bushman. Producer: Mike Dwyer. Writers: Nicholas Bushman and Mike Dwyer. Cinematography: Roy Rossovich. Editing: Megan McKee.
Cast: Mike Dwyer, Keith David, Katie Keene, Seth Hammond, Kevin Crowley, Tara Bellando, Lyle Kanouse, John W. Lawson, Louie Lawless, Misa Farslow.
Metropol Pictures will be releasing the film on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 15. Bonus features include the making of the film, a behind the scenes featurette, and interviews with cast and crew.