Friday, December 6, 2013

Out of the Furnace Movie Review

Woody Harrelson and Christian Bale (r) in Out of the Furnace

A Slow Burning

The term "out of the furnace" is used often in the Bible; yet Scott Cooper's drama/thriller Out of the Furnace isn't prophetic, or even all that insightful. It is superbly cast, gritty and entertaining in spots. Unfortunately, it's also familiar; and (given my lofty expectations) a tad disappointing.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: From Scott Cooper, the critically-acclaimed writer and director of Crazy Heart, comes a gripping and gritty drama about family, fate, circumstance, and justice. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has a rough life: he works a dead-end blue collar job at the local steel mill by day, and cares for his terminally ill father by night. When Russell's brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from serving time in Iraq, he gets lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast and mysteriously disappears. The police fail to crack the case, so - with nothing left to lose - Russell takes matters into his own hands, putting his life on the line to seek justice for his brother. The impressive cast of Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson are rounded out by Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard.

What’s Best: As you might expect, the main cast is extraordinary: This, despite relatively short stints for most of the actors. The movie is built around Bale and to a lesser extent, Affleck... both of whom excel as true brothers. I say true, because they're decidedly different in pretty much everything they do (and how they do it) yet when push comes to shove, show an unrivaled closeness that's almost impossible to fake. As far as capturing the family dynamic, Cooper and his players couldn't have done better.

There's also no denying Cooper's ability to get real life on camera... and to do it well. He did it even better in Crazy Heart; but had the advantage of a more colorful main character (Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake) ... someone determined to fix his situation, instead of stoically handling it.

What’s Not: Out of the Furnace has its fair share of darkness (death, gambling, prison, PTSD... you name it) and it starts to add up towards the end... to the point where you're either craving revenge, or a break from the awfulness in front of you. On a lesser level, I found the fight sequences involving Affleck to be pedestrian at best... on par with a Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme film (minus the cheesy appeal.)

Best Line: Does anyone deliver lines better than Willem Dafoe? His best? 'You fuck with these inbreeds, and you come crawling back.' Too bad Rodney doesn't listen, instead offering, 'Am I supposed to be scared of him (Harrelson's Curtis) because he sucks on a lollipop?' You know what they say... the tougher they are, the harder they fall.

Overall: Trust me, I really wanted to like this movie: I even took my own brother (Brian) to see it. It has plenty of solid moments... some subtle, such as Russell stopping at "Just..." before choosing not to advise his younger brother further; and some not so subtle, like Saldana's "I heard they're gonna close it (the mill) while basically dumping Russell after he gets out of jail.

It's a good movie, albeit a simple one. It hints at more, which accounts for a lower grade than most critics will likely give it. It's worth seeing for the acting alone, and the realistic nature of a world, some of us may not want to see.