Movie Review: 'Out of the Furnace'

Christian Bale, hot off a much-lauded, Golden Globe nominated performance in ‘American Hustle’ has a second feature in theaters that is definitely worth seeking out.

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‘Out of the Furnace’ not only showcases another strong performance by Bale, but boasts an impressive supporting cast in this moody drama.

Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, and Woody Harrelson each bring strong performances to this tale of life’s hardships in a dying Pennsylvania steel town.

When we first meet Russell Baze (Bale), he’s a working class steel mill laborer caring for his dying father, in love with his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), and looking after his Iraqi war veteran younger brother, played by Casey Affleck.

Rodney Baze (Affleck) has a gambling problem and has struggled to readjust to life after tours abroad in the U.S. military. Big brother Russell protects Rodney by anonymously paying off his gambling debts to the town’s local bookie, John Petty (Willem Dafoe).

After a meeting with Petty to discuss his brother’s debts, Russell’s poor choice to drink and drive results in a fatal car accident that lands him in prison.

While he’s serving his time, Russell’s father passes away, his girlfriend abandons him for another man, and little brother Rodney becomes increasingly troubled and involved with underground gambling and illegal fighting for money.

Newly released from prison, Bale’s Russell Baze tries to piece together the broken pieces of his life.

When younger brother Rodney runs afoul of violent crime boss Harlan DeGroat (an excellent Woody Harrelson) and goes missing, ‘Out of the Furnace’ takes an artfully darker tone and evolves into a deeper meditation on penance, retribution, and redemption.

Director Scott Cooper broke onto the public radar with his Oscar-winning 2009 film, ‘Crazy Heart’ with Jeff Bridges.

Cooper’s ‘Out of the Furnace’ rings truthfully in its portrayal of flawed persons whose choices come with repercussions. Bolstered by solid performances, ‘Out of the Furnace’ never feels “soapy” or overly dramatic, despite the antagonisms faced by Cooper’s characters.

Bale and Harrelson are both fantastic in their roles, as two willfully opposing forces of nature bound by fate to violently collide.

Cooper has included some nice artistic flourishes that compliment the story. ‘Out of the Furnace’ shows some reserve in its symbolism and artistry in drawing parallels between the “good and evil” in men. Their “hearts of darkness,” are cloaked beneath the societal roles which each inhabits.

‘Out of the Furnace’ is another terrific showcase for the acting talents of Christian Bale. His performance in this film is terrific and compared to ‘American Hustle‘ shows his broad range in brining characters to life. Equally good is Woody Harrelson, whose intelligently brutal backwoods gangster gives this film its dramatic momentum.

‘Out of the Furnace’ is a compellingly dark tale that hasn’t clicked with audiences seeking out simple “entertainment” at the movies.

It is, however, a very worthy film worth seeking out if more serious-minded, contemplative drama is of interest.

Sure to find a wider audience once it hits Netflix, DVD, and pay television, ‘Out of the Furnace’ is still playing in theatrical release and should be seen on the big screen while you still can.

Flixnerd Rating: ★★★★☆




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