Animal 2 is a direct to video sequel to a direct to video original film. I never saw the first film, but I suspect that you’re brought up to date in this one through some of the dialog. Because I did not see the first, it will not be possible for me to make any comparisons. Obviously the only real reason for this film is to provide a vehicle for Ving Rhames and in that respect it works OK. The story has enough originality to it to make all the street gang and prison clichés bearable, but only minimally. The box art claims this is the “unrated” version, but since there was no theatrical release I have to ask, unrated as compared to what? There are tons of F bombs and N words, but they come mostly in the horrid hip hop soundtrack and less in the dialog, although there’s plenty of “plain talk” there as well. It’s a good thing these guys don’t have to play by the same rules as people like Imus do.
Animal 2 begins as a prison guard is explaining to his charges that he’s having a rather bad day, so he doesn’t want any crap out of them, or else. He particularly calls out James “Animal” Allen, who seems to be back in Susanville prison after doing a previous 15 year stretch. The common belief is that Animal was behind a race riot at Folsom, so ended up back in his old stomping grounds and apparently as a thorn in our young guard’s side. We quickly learn that Animal has a history of being a prison prize fighter, a role he has no desire to return to. Unfortunately the prison pastor has other plans for Animal. He has his son framed for a murder he didn’t commit to force Animal to return to the prison ring. Reluctantly Animal picks up where he seemed to have left off, and he’s killing other inmates in rapid succession. We also learn that Animal is serving a life sentence for murders he did not commit. Nothing unusual, except here, he’s covering for yet another son who shot him and left him with a gun that had traceable murders on it. What follows is 50% Boys In The Hood and 50% Oz. In fact, this whole film has a David Simon feel to it that might also remind you of the hoods in The Wire.
For a low budget direct to DVD release the acting is actually fairly good beyond Rhames’ own trademark performance. Make no mistake, Rhames isn’t stretching any muscles here. If you’ve seen him anywhere else, you will recognize the character. Perhaps he is a little darker here. Yannick Bisson is the weaker performer here as the dirty Assistant District Attorney. We get a better performance out of nearly everyone else in the film. Perhaps Bisson was uncomfortable as practically the only white character in the film outside of his crusader fiancée , Kate, played quite well by Deborah Valente. Vicellous Reon Shannon is the better performer of the sons as Darius, who put Animal in prison. K.C. Collins is pretty much just there and phones in every scene he’s in as Animal’s framed son. Conrad Dunn is actually very entertaining as Pastor Kasada who is manipulating Animal into fighting.