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While it may not make the most of its incredible cast, Out of the Furnace is still so packed with talent that it's hard to turn away.
All Critics (192)
| Top Critics (46)
| Fresh (102)
| Rotten (90)
| DVD (1)
Christian Bale still makes this rather run-of-the-mill proposition appealing, regardless of how oddly unfashionable he may currently be.
It's a picture with weight - perhaps more weight than bite.
Aims for Bruce Springsteen with its blue-collar big themes and stadium-rock emotion but ends up as a bandana-wearing cliché.
This is a movie that might have been a great drama at four hours with a more ambitious script and a director with a vision or something to say.
The movie has an undeniable, dour force, but it's basically conventional macho filmmaking, and it's extremely violent.
Good actors really earn their pay when they have to negotiate bad scripts.
There are flashes of what might have been, but for all its interesting characters and moments of brilliance, the film is never gripping nor, as it turns out, all that thrilling.
Out of the Furnace seems to be striving for the balance of action and introspection found in a lot of classic '70s indies. What it achieves instead is a well-cast, slow-paced piece that has action and angsty quiet, which isn't the same thing.
There's an impressive, lived-in authenticity about the movie, but it's bogged down by heavy-handed symbolism, rote storytelling and zero female characters of note (sorry Zoe Saldana). Well-made, but why?
The acting is incredible -- the cast boasts two Oscar winners and three nominees; and visually, the film is bleak and stirring. In the end though, the story is a lot of build-up to a forgettable finish.
The choice to pit [Christian Bale] against a specific bad guy reduces the movie somewhat; we've seen this story in various guises many times before. But it also gives the film a steady focus..
... we receive an aimless, generic crime drama that cuts itself off at the knees early on and scrambles for relevancy thereafter.
After finally helping Jeff Bridges to a long overdue Oscar in "Crazy Heart", director Scott Cooper follows up that tale of a downward spiralling musician with another one of downward spiralling blue collar workers. Narratively, it's lacking a certain something but one thing's for sure with Cooper; he certainly knows how to bring out the best from his actors.
With a cruel twist of fate, Russell Baze (Christian Bale) lands himself in prison after a driving offence. While inside, his terminally ill father passes away and his younger, ex-soldier, brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) takes to bare-knuckle fighting to pay off debts. When Russell is released, he finds that Rodney is in over his head with a ruthless crime ring led by Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). When Rodney eventually disappears, Russell takes matters into his own hands.
If the town depicted in "Out Of The Furnace" feels familiar then that because it's likely reminding you of the same Pennsylvania steel-mill town that was the setting for Michael Cimino's "The Deer Hunter" in 1978. It would also seem that Scott Cooper is intent on regularly referencing Cimino's classic throughout this films duration; it channels a similar theme of a lack of opportunities for the characters and even though some serve their country in war (Iraq steps in for Vietnam this time) they are forgotten about when they return home. We also get to stare down the scope of a hunting rifle now and again, and there's even a scene where actual deer hunting takes place. And the point of it all, I hear you ask? Well, to be frank, I'm not particularly sure. Maybe Cooper is trying to tell us that so many years - and wars - down the line nothing has changed for these working class people. They're mere fodder and left to go back to their land of opportunity were opportunity doesn't really exist for them. This could be Cooper's intention or it could just be that I'm reading into his script a little too deeply when it's highly possible that there is no depth in the first place. Somewhere there's a commentary on the economic state of contemporary America but the message is muddled somewhat, as it veers into a generic backwoods crime thriller.
The film is a strangely frustrating experience whereby what you see in front of you is visually commanding but it's hard to connect to the character's and their plight. The weakness of the script is apparent and it's hard to grasp the film as anything more than a revenge flick that leaves a slightly nasty aftertaste. That being said, Cooper is certainly a director that has a good eye and feel for detail and he has a full command over his splendid ensemble. It's the solid performances that really make the film tick. Not that any further proof is required in terms of their acting abilities but a smoulderingly intense Affleck and a snarling, brutish Harrelson really excel and solid (all-be-it, underwritten) support is delivered from Whitaker and Dafoe. It's Bale who impresses most, though, in one of his most effective and understated roles. There's nothing heroic about him. He's simply a soulful man with a deep sense of family commitment and refuses to yield when anyone threatens that.
As much as I couldn't see what the point of the whole affair was, I still went along with it. It's deliberately paced and still manages to hold your attention. As a director, Cooper shows a lot of promise but he needs to tighten up on his writing duties. When that happens, I suspect we'll see a real improvement on this potentially solid filmmaker.
No great cast could save this from becoming an excruciatingly dull and predictable experience - a pointless film with an uneven structure where the first act takes more than an hour just to shape its simple premise and whose development is nothing that we haven't seen before.
A bit too slow for me. Besides, the content isn't gripping either. Only the performances are appreciable.
A dark, gritty tale of a man (Casey Affleck) home from another tour in Iraq, and how he disappears after getting involved with an underground fight club overseen by a ruthless leader (Woody Harrelson). After he goes missing, his older brother (Christian Bale), fresh out of prison, becomes determined to find him even under the strictest orders by police to let them do their jobs and to not get involved. This is a story that has a lot of interesting things to say, namely about the present-day economy, the feeling of being trapped in small, working class towns, as well as the post traumatic stress that continues to haunt soldiers after they return home. Bale is phenomenal as he always is, with Harrelson proving to be a terrifying, memorable villain. The end of the movie is unmistakably harsh, but also powerful and will not leave the viewer quickly. It does not get everything right, but in terms of tone and the sheer arresting ability director Scott Cooper captures, it is still worth a view.
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