Out of the Furnace

Director: Scott Cooper

Starring: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Tom Bower

Rating: R (strong violence, language and drug content)

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.

 

Out of the Furnace

By Cole Schneider

Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) both wrote and directed Out of the Furnace, a film following two flawed brothers willfully stepping into the fire under different circumstances. Cooper wore two hats for the film, but only one successfully. Visually, the film is close to a masterpiece. Its use of the steadicam aides the great performances from Bale, Affleck, and Woody Harrelson and there is a scene at the heart of the narrative with powerful cross-cutting between each brother, one hunting and one fighting that exemplifies the visual success of the film. Throughout, we can see the brokenness of a town beyond hope and of brothers hopelessly participating in a broken system.

Unfortunately, our eyes aren’t the only sense utilized in the film. Not only is the script uneven and erratic from scene to scene, but lines are coercively delivered as if they’re freshman being forced to read Shakespeare. It’s no fault of the actors who are as subtle as they are allowed; rather it’s the script’s insistence to tell us what is happening in lieu of trusting its visual acuity. Coupled with its unyielding nihilistic preachiness, the movie never had a chance.

Out of the Furnace isn’t a terrible film, it is in fact nearly a great one. It just couldn’t get out of its own way and the best it offers is a good imitation of great movies. My worldview is neither altered nor affirmed as it aims; instead I just want to watch The Deer Hunter and Winter’s Bone again. That’s a bad sign. Then again, it could remind me of worse films.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

 

Out of the Furnace

By Matt Greene

It’s unfair to label “Out of the Furnace” a bad film. It’s well shot. The setting is effectively imposing and formidable. The performances are nuanced and engaging. The sense of time is easily understood. Unfortunately, the positives end there. While it’s an authentic and good-looking film, the lazy, heavy-handed script offers very little originality and rings mostly untrue.

“Furnace” could be accurately described as “gritty”, a genuine look at blue-collar, lower-middle class people.  It’s a fairly simple “good guys vs. bad guys” revenge film that avoids melodrama by instead opting to be boring. As it slowly plods along, it becomes increasingly clear that it has no interest in allowing us to infer anything about the subtler points of the story. The emotions it forces on us are manipulative and unnatural, and the dialogue is so heavy-handed and full of clichés I felt I was watching a student film. And the score….ugh. Is there a more uninspired way of saying, “THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT NORMAL FOLK” than to have Pearl Jam playing throughout?

The high-points are the performances, making this film more than a waste. Bale continues to prove he is our generation’s Deniro, deftly bringing subtlety and gravitas to every role. Affleck is proceeding to best his more famous brother, Ben, in every role. Saldana is great, and hopefully will be given better material someday. Unfortunately, there is very little for any of these guys to work with here. So no matter how powerful the movie seems to think it is, the mediocre writing and poor direction prove otherwise.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

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