Out of the Furnace is a film which holds no punches and yet somehow still feels melancholy and understated; thanks in no small part to another stellar performance from Christian Bale.
From Scott Cooper, the writer and director of Crazy Heart, this is another hard-hitting drama but without the bittersweet undertone found in his 2009 film. Russell (Bale) and his army veteran brother Rodney, played by Casey Affleck, were born, raised and still reside in a small Pennsylvanian town. Russell follows in his father’s shoes working for the town’s steel mill whilst Rodney struggles with the aftereffects of the war; looking for ways to earn a quick buck whilst battling his internal torment with the place that inexplicably changed him.
Russell, although not one himself, carries the same sense of honour usually so closely associated with characters in the armed forces; he visits his dying father and his dead mother, he continuously tries to his brother under his wing and guide him away from a life of gambling and underground fighting toward a life of honesty. When Russell makes a single but fatal mistake and with Rodney’s attempted last hurrah before getting clean, the small town brothers become entwined with Jersey “inbred” gangster, Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) and Russell sees his simple life crumble around him.
The title of the film is personified through Bale’s character. Russell takes hit after hit and still battles to remain honest but without ever feeling in any way feeble; he just refuses to be broken by this modern world. Russell battles to do the right thing so hard and for so much of the film that the audience can only empathise with him when the only option left to him is to take matters into his own hands.
The script is not perfect, of course, with a sequence involving a voicemail message which felt a little cheated. The scenario works for rushing the plot forward but for a film which is so perfectly cut and stripped down in other points, particularly the opening half hour, it personally felt like it did not need to be there.
This is, however, a minor flaw and with Bale’s understated performance carrying it, Out of the Furnace is a great example of how character driven drama can be enough to sell a film without the need for flashy production values.
RATING: SEE IT
[Rating system: See it / See it cheap / Skip it]