Bellowing smokestacks once the trademark of industrial strength in Rust Belt communities are the symbolic backdrop for this tense and angst-filled drama.
Hello moviegoers, ‘Out of the Furnace’ sees Christian Bale as Russell Baze a salt of the earth mill worker in a Pennsylvania community that offers a limited outlook for its residents. Bale is stoic and hits all the right notes in his portrayal of Russell who cares for ailing father Rodney Baze Sr. (Bingo O’Malley), and looks out for his younger brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck) who unbeknown to him has been hustling barnyard fights.
‘Out of the Furnace’ (4 sweet potatoes of four) Stars: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson; Director: Scott Cooper; Genre: Crime Drama Thriller; Rated R; Runtime: 116 minutes; Opens nationwide Friday, November 6th.
A devastating twist of fate brings Russell’s world to a screeching halt and lands him in prison. Russell would eventually emerge from behind the walls of the prison to a world that has, in some respects, moved on without him. His father dies while he’s away. His girlfriend, Lena (played by Zoe Saldana) has moved on, and his brother, Rodney (who’s played by Casey Affleck), has been back from another tour of duty and finds it difficult to assimilate back into civilian life. Compelled to return to the scene of the tragic car accident, Russell a man of quiet resolve is visibly anguished. He pays respects to the dead and comes to terms with his new life.
Deeper in death, Rodney thinks a big-time fight is the only way to settle his debts. Affleck gives an edgy performance as the tough-nosed, disenfranchised veteran who has seen the horrors of war and is surviving. Affleck and Bale share great chemistry on camera. While Rodney is on his way to the fight, Russell and Red, Russell’s supportive uncle (played by Sam Shepard) are hunting big game. You can’t help but get the sense life hangs in the balance on multiple levels, here. Cooper is pretty good about this kind of symbolic imagery throughout the film.
Rodney insists his handler John Petty (played by Willem Dafoe) make a fight with the menacing and violent Northeast crime boss DeGroat (who’s played more than convincingly by Woody Harrelson), and he has a problem with everybody.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the fight, DeGroat accosts Rodney and Petty after they leave the fighting grounds. Police Chief Wesley Barnes (played by Forrest Whittaker) effortlessly assumes this role and would inform Russell and Red that Petty’s body was found but there was no sign of Rodney.
Russell’s commitment to his family and his close relationship with his brother will not allow him to accept the authorities’ slow-footed investigation in to Rodney’s disappearance, and he will risk his freedom a second time to seek justice and closure for Rodney. His search for answers leads to one of the more palpable scenes you’ll see in a movie.
Director Scott Cooper takes a very good script which he co-wrote with Brag Ingelsby and delivers a complete film that’s symbolic, strong on dialogue, suspenseful and the edginess at times boils over to sheer ruthlessness. Strong performances and a poignant theme song “Release Me” by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, which embodies Russell as if it were laminated to his soul, makes for one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. I give ‘Out of the Furnace’ 4 sweet potatoes out of four.
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