Published on February 3rd, 2014 | by Allan Brown0
Out of the Furnace Review
Movie Review: Out of the Furnace (2014)
Running Time: 116 mins
Director: Scott Cooper
Writers: Brad Ingelsby, Scott Cooper
Cast: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Woody Harrelson, William Dafoe, Forest Whitaker
Plot: When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn’t follow through fast enough, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.
Back in 2009 Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal both received Oscar wins for their contribution in Director Scott Coopers country music drama, Crazy Heart. Now after a 5 year hiatus the director returns, bringing with him another impressive ensemble of talent to his long awaited follow up – Out of the Furnace.
The film centres on the relationship between the two siblings, Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) as they fight to exist in a once thriving industrial town that now lays waste and vacant after the economic downturn, an all too common picture in the fading American dream.
While Russell followed his father into the steel mills, Rodney took what he saw as his only other option and enlisted in the Army, hoping to find a better life outside of Braddock, Pennsylvania.
But after four brutal tours of duty in Iraq, a physically and emotionally run-down Rodney returns to a recession-weary town, a town that offers even fewer options than before. When a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, his younger brother tries to make ends meet by competing in bare-knuckle boxing. Mired in debt, he soon finds himself enmeshed with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), the leader of a ruthless red-neck crime ring.
The pacing suddenly decelerates as we encounter additional characters and subplots that are unnecessary and only seem only present to congest the flow of the main narrative
What follows is the journey of just how far an ordinary man will go when driven by family and loyalty to fight for those he loves.
Naturally when the name Christian Bale is attached to a project, intrigue and curiosity tend to follow. Whether you’re a Bale or not, there can be no question in the fact he has offered audiences some of the most complex, diverse and mesmerising character performances over the last decade. His dedication and discipline to each and every role from both his monolithic physical transformations, to his versatility and range as an actor is testament to why he truly is one of the finest actors of his generation.
However, despite Out of the Furnace offering a remarkable cast who all deliver fine performances, the material they are left to work with sadly does very little for them in what is accentually an underwhelming and extremely predictable narrative.
The film starts strong, setting up all the major players whilst introducing us to landscape of decay in which they call home .The pace is handled with care in building atmosphere and tension as we wait for the inevitable shit to hit the fan.
She too is left on the sidelines barely even registering as a character in what is just another underdeveloped and unfocused afterthought.
However, as we hit the second act the pacing suddenly decelerates as we encounter additional characters and sub-plots that are unnecessary and only seem only present to congest the flow of the main narrative.
From Forest Whitakers wet and uninspiring role as Police Chief Wesley Barnes who pops in and out of the story like a whisper in the wind, to Zoe Saldana’s character Lena Taylor who never really gets the chance to develop or evolve. Instead like Whitaker, she too is left on the sidelines barely even registering as a character in what is just another underdeveloped and unfocused afterthought.
Both Woody Harrelson and William Dafoe’s characters are more streamlined and focused ,although risk at times coming across a little to stereotypical, bordering on caricature.
Christian Bale and Casey Affleck come away nearly unscathed, offering a deeper and more complex character arc than the film frankly deserves, and while the chemistry between the two sometimes feels a little dry, the two actors along with the stunning cinematography, that grasps the bleak landscape making it as much a character as the rest of the cast, offers the strongest aspects of the entire film.
Check out the trailer here
Summary: Despite a strong start the narrative sadly nosedives into predictability where it fails to surprise, captivate or make adequate use of its stellar cast.