For Hope, For Family, For Justice.
Directed by: Scott Cooper.
Starring: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard.
Rust Belt. Pre-2008 elections. Economic hellhole of the U.S., at least the way Cooper portrays the setting to be like. In the opening to our director's second endeavor behind the camera, we get a very detailed expectation of what the movies as a whole has prepared for us. From a beater of women to an American going bare knuckle for money, we follow the story of Russell Baze (Bale), Harlan Degroat (Harrelson) and Rodney Baze Jr. (Affleck). Russell is a steelworker whose life has seen better days but still has the love of Lena (Saldana) to come home to. His younger brother, Rodney at first glance is seen as the troubled member of the family who has troubles with gambling and being his own man. As their lives continue at a steady pace, Russell is involved in a car accident that lands him in prison. Harlan Degroat, on the other hand, is a sleazy testosterone charged madman that binds our male leads together.
Out of the Furnace paints a rather realistic portrait of poverty in the U.S. and the things the lower middle classed folk have to deal with in their daily lives to get by. After being released from prison, the world Russell left temporarily has changed a little closer to home. Rodney has done multiple tours to Iraq. Lena found a second chance in the arms of a cop played by Forest Whitaker. Rodney participates in various bare-knuckle underground fights to make enough money that can pay his debts and keep him away from being tied down to what has destroyed his home. Both Bale and Affleck portray damaged souls brilliantly. From troubled individuals, we enter a tale of vengeance that is sparked by Harlan Degroat, who allows the youngest brother to fight in a no win battle that leads to tragedy. Harrelson goes back to his acting potential last seen in movies like No Country for Old Men, Zombieland and Rampart to mold a violent meth addicted individual that could kill you with looks alone if he had the chance.
Though visually troublesome Russell Baze may be, the plot has seen better days. Our male leads may be brilliant in their respective role, but the supporting cast stay back and watch. Whitaker is wasted hugely wasted with a character that could have been explored more and served better to Bale's character, as well as Sam Shepard as the Baze brother's uncle. Saldana's character is just that character that is more of a lost prize and an anchor with nothing crucial to do. The only actor I can't personally downgrade would be Willem Dafoe as he plays a character that orchestrates fights and is kind of a lone shark. I've gone on record stating that Dafoe is that actor who can make any character look good, no question asked. Scott Cooper uses his particular directing skills to bring out the best in his leads (but mostly worst). Often times the story takes a short break for him to explore the melancholy of the environment that takes over the lives of these people but later picks up pace at just the right time, even if the ending might be a bit bittersweet.
Overall, Out of the Furnace has a very attractive cast with three main leads that are surely to fatten you up with impeccable acting. It may divide an audience, but it surely hits the right notes where it counts.
Written by: Bawnian©-Dexeus.