“Are you going to be a good boy and take a dive or am I going to have to teach you a lesson?” threatens psychopathic drug lord Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). “I can’t promise to go down,” unstable Iraqi-War vet Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) says. He owes DeGroat money and tries to pay it off in illegal – and bloody – bare-knuckle boxing. When Rodney disappears, older brother Russell (Christian Bale) sets out to find him. That’s the setup for this violent crime drama.
What happened to Rodney? Can Russell discover his brother’s fate? How much will Russell give up for his brother? For answers, see “Out of the Furnace.”
Christian Bale is brooding and intense as Russell Baze, hard-scrabble Pennsylvania steel-mill worker, trying to keep his family and life together. He’s caregiver for both his father (Bingo O’Malley), whose health is broken after a life in the mills, and younger brother Rodney – well played by Casey Affleck – whose wartime experiences leave him chronically angry and adrift. “My head is just full of stuff and I can’t get it out,” he says. Russell is devoted to his girlfriend, Lena – Zoe Saldana – but his time in prison may end that relationship. “I was hoping we could work it out,” he says. “I can’t be without you. I can’t.” Russell’s a good man but life seems stacked against him.
Others in the excellent cast include Woody Harrelson as out-of-control, scary Harlan DeGroat, one of “the inbreds from Jersey,” as someone says. He’s leader of an isolated criminal family, largely immune to police intervention. Harrelson plays him as little more than an animal. Zoe Saldana is Lena Taylor, sympathetic pre-school teacher with whom Russell wants to have a family. Forest Whitaker plays Police Chief Wesley Barnes who cautions Russell when he seems ready to take on DeGroat alone. Sam Shepherd is “Red” Baze, Russell’s friend and uncle. Willem Dafoe plays John Petty, small-time hoodlum who loaned the money to Rodney that DeGroat now wants back.
“Out of the Furnace” is a gritty, violent and compelling crime/family drama, with rich performances from talented actors and smart script by Brad Ingelsby and director Scott Cooper. Masanobu Takayanagi provided excellent cinematography. His artful, slow-moving camera sometimes calls attention to itself and, with the bleak storyline, may make identifying with the film’s characters difficult. Set in 2008, it’s hard times for the film’s working-class characters.
Rated R for strong violence, language and drugs, “Out of the Furnace” runs 116 minutes. See it for thoughtful, if brutal, filmmaking for adult audiences.
Drama “Out of the Furnace”
Could not be much bleaker,
Stunning performances –
I am my brother’s keeper.