Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Out of the Furnace

Directed by Scott Cooper.
2013. Rated R, 116 minutes.
Cast:
Christian Bale
Woody Harrelson
Casey Affleck
Zoe Saldana
Forest Whitaker
Willem Dafoe
Sam Shepard
Tom Bower

Russell (Bale) leads a mostly ho-hum life, just the way he likes it. He works every day at the same mill where his father once did. He spends most nights with his girlfriend Lena (Saldana). Others he has a few drinks at the local bar before heading home. One such night lands him in jail as he gets into a car wreck that kills someone. When he gets out a few years later, he finds his brother Rodney (Affleck) up to his eyeballs in debt to the bar owner/bookie who himself is in pretty deep to a thug from the mountains named DeGroat (Harrelson). Rodney is trying to earn money by fighting bare-knuckle fights in and around town. It's not working quite as planned. On top of all that, Russell's girl is now dating the local police chief (Whitaker). What's a big brother to do?

The movie's gritty and somber tone is struck immediately and never lets up. We're presented with a bleak landscape and the people in it all exude either hopelessness or resignation to their lot in life. There are those that are in trouble and those that are okay with their station in life, but no one appears to be striving for anything more. These are simple people, some of whom have put themselves in complicated situations. The more than game cast pulls this off quite nicely. Highlighting  this ensemble is a nasty turn by Woody Harrelson. He gives us a guy that all of us would do well to stay away from. As his opposite, Christian Bale gives us another excellent performance. Honestly though, he might be trumped by the tag team work (they are often seen together) of Casey Affleck and Willem Dafoe. Forest Whitaker is also wonderful as our top cop while Zoe Saldana delivers the goods, as usual.


For all the great work done by the cast, the story doesn't quite come together like it should. For instance, it's pretty clear that Rodney is suffering from PTSD. Instead of the movie itself or anyone in it giving a crap, it's just used as an excuse for his behavior. Woody Harrelson's character is begging for a more developed backstory. The relationship between Russell and Lena needs more attention and feels abandoned rather than resolved. Even the main plot has its problems. It eventually morphs into a revenge movie, but for such a passionate action, the people involved feel oddly detached.

Overall, I still think Out of the Furnace is a decent movie, mainly because of its stellar cast. They elevate the material beyond the heights it should be capable of. The look and feel of the movie is also a big asset. All that despair with nary a glimmer of hope reaches out and pulls us in, proving the adage that misery loves company. With that, it becomes a weighty film with a number of social and economic issues on its mind. Unfortunately, it crumbles beneath that weight when it fails to add anything to the conversation it invokes.

8 comments:

  1. YES!!!

    This movie suffers from focusing on the wrong things. Rodney's character is far more interesting than Russell's, but he's treated like a plot point and nothing more and so all the backstory that would make for such an interesting story is basically thrown away. You nailed it.

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    1. Truth is Russell might be the least interesting person in the entire movie, but that's who we're stuck following. Thanks

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  2. Excellent review! I agree with every word of it. This film was just okay. It could've been better.

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    1. Thanks. I'd even say it should be better which is why this is so hugely disappointing.

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  3. Terrific review! Thoughtful and balanced. This movie has a terrific cast, and it sounds like a great character-driven story. I definitely go for dark. :-) It's a shame that -- as Fisti said -- it focused on the wrong things.

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    1. Thanks a bunch. The cast is great. They truly make the most of what they have to work with.

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  4. Hmmm, so this film isn't as stellar as the cast then. I saw that Netflix streaming has it but I just wasn't enthused enough to rent it.

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    1. That's exactly right. The cast is wonderful, but the movie doesn't quite measure up.

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