Out of the Furnace (2013)

Out of the FurnaceReleased: December 6, 2013. Directed by: Scott Cooper. Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana. Runtime: 116 min.

“Out of the Furnace” starts around the same time frame as last year’s “Killing Them Softly,” which also came out around the same time. The time frame is 2008, before Barack Obama is elected – but during his campaign. They both involve mafia types, but this one focuses more on fight club aspects and debt politics within the mafia because of the economy crash. Though, it’s a bit more subtle – and were just a few vibes I picked up. The time frame isn’t as clear, either, because it starts out when Obama is campaigning, but seems to continue sometime during 2009 or 2010.

The plot follows Russell (Christian Bale) and his younger brother Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck) who live in the industry town of North Braddock, Pennsylvania. Rodney isn’t enjoying his life very much in this town, and while Russell is getting by, he crashes into the back of a woman’s car killing her and her son, and finds himself in prison. Once he gets out of prison (which I’d estimate is about eighteen months later?), Rodney has found himself deep in dangerous fight clubs. Once he’s released, he must choose between his own freedom or saving his brother.

This is a film about brotherhood, and what one might do for their sibling. I think the bond displayed between the two brothers is great. Rodney is willing to change and work for a living in the steel mill. Before he was in Iraq for four tours, and when he came back, he seemed shaken up from it. He just isn’t cut out for that sort-of life like his brother is, and he is a character that will appeal to many. He is performed well by Casey Affleck. Christian Bale is really good as Russell, as well, a character who is full of mercy on some things, but not on others – and has to make some difficult choices throughout. I thought he was a great character who represents protective older siblings everywhere.

The film, to me, is about brotherhood and how certain events in one’s life can change a person. It seems that Rodney is affected by both his mother’s death as an infant and his tours in Iraq – while Russell faced hardships like prison. I think “Furnace” in the title refers to those hardships, and you must overcome them. It’s also a film about justice and finding it, and that’s the second part of the film mostly.

It gets to it slowly but surely, so it makes me consider this a slow-boiling and intense drama. It seems to me a lot of films set in an industrial town are good, but have slow pacing. Anyway, John Petty (Willem Dafoe) is high up in the fighting rings in North Braddock, and the one to introduce Rodney to them. He also introduces him to Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) is a ruthless man high up in the fighting ring in his land, and he seems a bit more threatening with a lollipop in his mouth, something Rodney comments on jokingly. But DeGroat proves he should not be screwed with, as shown in the opening scene where he forcibly makes a woman deepthroat a hot dog (the food…). It expresses his cruelty, where he then proceeds to physically assault an onlooker who attempts to intervene, causing quite the scene at a local drive-in. DeGroat is a good antagonist, and this just reminds everyone of how great of a character actor Harrelson has the ability to consistently be.

This is better than one’s average crime thriller because it’s actually realistic and people receive consequences for their actions. It’s also more thought-provoking and has some compelling character depth, something I wasn’t expecting. The ending is good, and it leaves it up to the viewer to decide how they’d like it to end – morbidly or happily. I’m still deciding how I would have liked things conclude for the characters. It’s a good film and I may re-visit it in the future.

Score: 75/100

11 thoughts on “Out of the Furnace (2013)

  1. Good review.

    Again I don’t like it quite as much, but I also don’t hate it. I think the narrative and characters a bit thin, but the actors better than awesome.

    1. Are you right down the middle on a lot of movies, lol? I thought the characters (at least the two brothers) had interesting aspects to spare. Yeah, the actors were excellent 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, James.

      1. Probably. 🙂

        A lot of movies have plenty of merits, but also have their share of flaws. I tend to look for both in everything I watch.

      2. Make no mistake. Almost every one does, even most successful directors. The more we know . . . the more we know we have much to learn.

    1. Seems to me the metascore is good (64/100) but then only 53% of critics liked it on Rotten Tomatoes; the way those are calculated get confusing lol. But yes, it seems many are down the middle about it! Thanks Cindy 🙂

  2. This one looked REALLY good. Sucks to see it getting mixed reviews, but I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’m pretty curious about it myself, even if it’s apparently not the Academy Award winner it looked to be. Good review.

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Yeah, the earlier buzz seemed much more promising than it actually is – but I think it helped that I forgot all about this film until I did my box office predictions and then remembered, “Oh yeah! This is coming out!” Did you ever see Crazy Heart?

      Maybe it’ll get Academy recognition for acting. The acting was great. But then again, maybe not, because there were a lot of good performances this year…

      Thanks, Alexander! I look forward to your thoughts on it.

  3. Good review Dan. It’s a compelling, emotionally-tough movie, but I feel like that’s more because of the cast involved and the hard work they put in, and not because of whatever it was that Cooper did. Although, he definitely did try to make this more than your standard thriller.

    1. I guess I should agree with you on that, because I neglected to mention Cooper in my review haha! He really did, even though the first half felt like crime drama, the second half crime thriller haha.

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