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“Out of the Furnace” – Review (POSITIVE)

December 9, 2013

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 8.58.23 PMIt’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that’s had critics and viewers so split down the middle, well there was that one Superman movie, the name escapes me. Nevertheless, I can understand certain things about Scott Cooper’s second feature that the critics are divisive on, but on the whole the movie is solid entertainment and features some incredibly strong performances from it’s three leads.

Russell (Christian Bale) and his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) live in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. Rodney decides to make a change in his life and enlist in the army, fighting the good fight in Iraq. Russell will surly wait for his brother, however a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, leaving his brother alone.

After Russell’s release, Rodney is lured into one of the most violent and ruthless crime rings in the Northeast – illegal bare knuckle underground fighting rings,  a mistake that will almost cost him everything. Once released, Russell must choose between his own freedom, or risk it all to seek justice for his brother, by going after the ruthless dictator of the central hills of New Jersey, Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson).

As stories go, this one is pretty straight forward, it sometimes borderlines becoming a Charles Bronson revenge picture, but does manage to keep itself grounded. I do feel that Scott Cooper’s forte isn’t really scriptwriting a cathartic story, but more or less his strength comes from directing the actors in a way where they bring something in the story that’s so basic, deeper meaning.

It shows in his last film, “Crazy Heart”, not that the movie was bad, I don’t think the story was fleshed out to its full potential and it ends somewhat predictable, but Jeff Bridges performance was so left field that it managed to keep the whole film from falling apart. I believe a similar pattern returns here, only this time we’ve got three incredible performances; raw, brutal, and feral.

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 8.58.37 PMBale is in raw form as a concerned brother who lost almost everything he’s loved and cared for, his life is taken from him during a long period of time in his life, and the fact that there is nothing he can do to change it is painful to see. Affleck’s brutal Rodney is haunted in a post-Iraq war world, violence has become his only salem promise. In comes the feral Harlan, played by Woody Harrelson, who’s a hellbent force of destruction that shows no end in sight. The only way to stop a wolf from killing the sheep is to put it down.

The only disappointing factor this movie has is the fact that it over-utilizes the three leads, leaving the incredibly talented supporting players barely anything to do. Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, [the great] Sam Shepard, and Willem Dafoe are underused, more so than others. Dafoe does have some meaty scenes with Affleck, that much I’ll give him, but the rest of the cast was completely wasted. Other than that, the movie is a good film, with hearty scenes and mesmerizing performances by it’s leads.

GRADE: B

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