Out of the Furnace
dir Scott Cooper
scr Brad Ingelsby, Scott Cooper
prd Michael Costigan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Kavanaugh, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Ridley Scott
with Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard, Tom Bower, Bobby Wolfe, Boyd Holbrook, Corey Rieger, Bingo O'Malley
release US 6.Dec.13, UK 31.Jan.13
13/US Relativity 1h56
Out of the Furnace
Brotherly bond: Bale and Affleck

harrelson saldana whitaker
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Out of the Furnace Things go from bad to worse for the characters in this coarse drama, as the intensity levels start high and get much much more harrowing along the way. And in the end, the film becomes an unusually thoughtful and measured backwoods thriller.

In the Rust Belt, just as the recession bites, steel-mill worker Russell (Bale) is trying to help his little brother Rodney (Affleck), who's deep in debt to a local bookie (Dafoe). But a late-night car crash lands Russell a stretch in jail, and when he gets out everything has changed. He has no job, his girlfriend (Saldana) has taken up with the local sheriff (Whitaker), and Rodney is paying his debts by participating in bare-knuckle boxing matches. This puts both brothers on a collision course with brutal meths-cooking redneck Harlan (Harrelson).

Director-cowriter Cooper establishes the working-class vibe with a shocking opening that mixes Pearl Jam's Release with a violent display of Harlan's temper on a drive-in date. Then Dickon Hinchliffe's earthy score carries this tone right through the film, augmented by gritty, brooding performances. Bale and Affleck beautifully build the brothers' intense bond, letting us see deep beneath the surface. By contrast, Harrelson makes us recoil from the screen as a guy much scarier than most horror movie villains. And Saldana gets some strong, surprising moments all her own.

Watching these damaged brothers cling to each other as their lives fall apart is not very easy to watch. Thankfully, Cooper refuses to let the film slip into a full-on revenge movie, even though it feels like it's headed in that direction. The pacing is measured and grounded, even as major events keep dramatically shifting the story. But this doesn't mean that there's anything terribly subtle going on.

This is a blunt and brutal story that makes its central themes very clear. The editing is especially on-the-nose, cross-cutting between disparate scenes to make a point, while the thuggish machismo is sometimes overpowering as these men grapple with economic helplessness. And as the plot inevitably slips from emotional resonance to grisly violence, the introspective acting and filmmaking keep us involved. Although we know this kind of story can't end quietly.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 11.Dec.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall