This hard time isn't so hard after all. Actor Steve Buscemi directs this slow-moving look at life in the big house that--while intriguing--has nothing on a show like Oz. Edward Furlong (who looks like he belongs in the little house) plays a first-time, fresh-bait criminal who must find protection before becoming someone's new girlfriend.
He finds a mentor in Willem Dafoe--a hardened convict who basically runs the joint. With the exception of a violent confrontation with bully Tom Arnold, Animal (based on the Edward Bunker novel) doesn't get too gritty; the film instead focuses, with a docu-drama feel, on the characters' relationships. This is ultimately Dafoe's movie, even if Mickey Rourke's performance as a toothless transvestite is enough to scare anyone straight.