Russell and his younger brother Rodney live in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. But when a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, his brother becomes involved with one of the most violent and ruthless crime rings in the Northeast - a mistake that will cost him everything. Once released, Russell must choose between his own freedom, or risk it all to seek justice for his brother. Written by
Scott Cooper takes a sharp turn from the school book tone of his last film Crazy Heart and brings us to a more dismal world in Out of the Furnace. Our hero, Russel Baze, (played smartly by Christian Bale), is a well intentioned and responsible man who in trying to protect his brother meets cruel and cold irony and is sent wayward in this ruined world. Meanwhile his brother returns from deployment with a terrible case of post traumatic stress disorder and brings his chaos into the "imbred" and lawless hills of New Jersey, led by the degenerate Harlan Degroat, (Woody Harrelson).
Now, the story in the vein of films like Deer Hunter and Winter's Bone, two films I personally admire for capturing the delicacy of people amid depressed communities. It's hard to say this film doesn't measure up. The lighting, sound, cinematography, editing, story, are all accomplished with the utmost professionalism. However, if the script fell into the wrong hands its flaws would easily be detected because the weakness of its integrity would show. The story takes too many short cuts to get where it needs to go. Some might already find it slow. It is after all a vignette of the decline of our hero.
However, what really made this movie work for me was the brilliant performances of the trait. William Dafoe as a local and smart small time boss. Sam Shepard as the uncle, a face of masculinity and integrity, Tom Bower as a complex and familiar bartender and gate man. Casey Affleck as the young and traumatized brother, Forrest Whitaker as the conflicted cop, Zoe Saldana as the girlfriend. Though, it's Harrelson who really steals the show, he's evil, beyond logic and powerful You can't wait to see him again and that antagonistic combination is rare and even more scarcely pulled off.
Out of the Furnace won't be nominated for best screenplay. However, in my eyes, it should get a nod for everything else.
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