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Out of the Furnace - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Out of the Furnace
Directing: C+
Acting: B
Writing: C-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

Out of the Furnace is yet another movie about crime among violent "inbred" hill people to which the law does not apply. It has fundamentally nothing new to offer. It features working class everymen with limited options living in a town dependent on a dying industry -- in this case, steel mills. Sound familiar? If you've spent any of the rest of your life watching movies, it should. This one even features a climactic foot chase with guns through an abandoned industrial plant. Followed by railroads.

And then there's Woody Harrelson. This man is an underrated talent who has been misused far too many times. He's got to make a living, I guess. Here he gets paid to play the part of a violent sociopath. You know, a novel idea.

Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart wants us to know immediately how dangerous this Harlan DeGroat character is. It's a memorable opening scene, the camera aimed at a drive-in movie screen, poised above parked cars, then slowly scanning down to Harlan's car. He's watching the movie with a woman whose fairly innocent laugh at something Harlan says sets him off to the point of forcing the woman's hot dog own her throat. A man from a neighboring car comes to her aid and Harlan gets out of the car and kicks the shit out of him. The viewer is meant to think, Okay, so this is what we're in for.

There's a lot of talented actors in this movie. Christian Bale is Russell, the guy working at the local mill who ends up briefly in prison because he gets distracted by the radio on the highway and hits a car pulling into the street, killing the people in it. Zoe Saldana is his girlfriend, who leaves him for local police officer (Forest Whitaker) while he's in prison. Casey Affleck is Russell's little brother Rodney, a military guy unable to hold down a regular job at home after several tours in Iraq. Sam Shepard is their uncle, a tentative father figure as their widowed father dies of some unnamed disease. Willem Dafoe is the local bar owner who somehow both is sleazy and has a heart of gold.

All of these people commit to their parts admirably. As individuals, they are believable in roles that together create a story that really doesn't hold up. As John Petty, Dafoe is meant to convince us that he pays Rodney to take a fall in a fight, but continues doing business with him even after Rodney loses control and wins the fight anyway. In desperate need of money, Rodney convinces Petty to call up Harlan and set up a fight over in New Jersey. Yet again, he's being paid to take a fall -- and somehow Petty trusts that he will. This doesn't make much sense.

I won't reveal what Rodney actually does in that fight, not that it matters much, except to say that Rodney's fate is made clear surprisingly early in the film and is its one genuinely unpredictable moment. Suffice it to say that Rodney goes missing; the local law enforcement makes no effort to confront the suspects; and Russell, now an ex-con, decides to take the law into his own hands. It takes more than half the film to get to this point, at which Out of the Furnace essentially becomes a brooding vigilante movie.

Russell is pissed, Harlan is crazy. What will happen?? Honestly, the same shit that happened in a bunch of other movies. It's easily to get lulled by this one into thinking it has a singular vision, a unique sensibility, but the climactic scenes in particular unravel all such sentiments as it travels down well-worn and familiar paths. They start running through that empty industrial plant and you think, Seriously?

Seriously. You don't really need to see this movie.

Christian Bale glowers in another movie in which Christian Bale glowers.

Overall: C+
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