Film Review – Out of the Furnace (2013)

Title – Out of the Furnace (2013)

Director – Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart)

Cast – Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whitaker

Plot – Living in the Rust Belt of America, brothers Russell (Bale) and Rodney Blaze (Affleck) mine out an existence as a mill worker and soldier respectively. When something untoward happens to Rodney after he gets caught up in the wrong crowd, older brother Russell must make a decision on just how justice will be served to scumbag crime boss Harlan (Harrelson).

“You got a problem with me? I got a problem with everybody”

Review by Eddie on 29/07/2014

Out of the Furnace is that strange film beast, a film that consistently threatens to ramp it up to another level only to fall back once more onto an unfocused and convoluted plot. Director Scott Cooper’s follow up to his adequate hit Crazy Heart is a frustrating watch on many an occasion but due to some quality acting turns is a film still worth checking out despite its failed potential.

Coming out of the furnace and quickly back into it upon release, it’s easy to see why Out of the Furnace failed to resonate with either critics or a general audience. Cooper and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby have gathered together a bunch of very interesting players in the film yet fail to capitalise on any of them with an overabundance of story threads and a plotting of the story that gives the film an awkward pacing. Lost in an over complicated story is a great turn by Casey Affleck as internally affected ex-soldier Rodney Baze and another stunning turn from Woody Harrelson who seems to be carrying on with his True Detective form here as redneck crime boss Harlan DeGroat. It’s in the films other players and story strands that Out of the Furnace’s problems become more evident.

Christian Bale as lead Russell Baze is a solid presence in the film and Bale always delivers in some way or another but Russell is a strange character though that we never truly feel an affection towards him the way in which we need to and his relationship with the severely underutilised Zoe Saldana as Lena who like the great but short shifted Willem Dafoe as low level crime player John Petty needed some more screen time and their arcs just never play out into a satisfying whole. The film needed a tighter focus on its main story and a large plot point of Russell ending up in jail seems utterly pointless in a tale that seemingly already had the goods needed to flesh out a satisfying journey. Another frustration within the film is constantly missed opportunities to pack emotional punches and the film miscues moments far too often with only a scene between Bale and Saldana at a bridge encounter showcasing the emotional heft needed to do so.

With some stand out singular scenes and with some fantastic if underused acting turns by Harrelson, Affleck and Dafoe and a fine anchoring turn by Bale, Out of the Furnace is a quality drama that should have been so much more. With an extremely talented cast, a fine director and with a story ripe for potential, it’s a shame the films ending is such tripe and that the movie gets so lost within itself and therefore loses us the audience far too often.

3 scrape’s of the dinner plate out of 5

50 responses to “Film Review – Out of the Furnace (2013)

  1. Good review Eddie. It was mainly the cast that made it this work. The script itself was a tad conventional, but at least had a bunch of heavy-hitters doing whatever they could to help it all out.

  2. Fun fact: I grew up in the area of New Jersey that most of this film takes place in. I’ve had encounters with the people and the film made them out to be a little too backwoods. They’re actually nice people! Good review ad always.

  3. Going off trailers and stuff I always caught the vibe that this would be a good’un, but I’ve yet to see the actual film. Shame it’s not quite worked out. Great review Eddie!


    • It’s very watchable man but not memorable in the slightest. It is a shame as it had some pretty large potential had the story joined with the actors in the quality stakes.

  4. My grandparents lived in Braddock for a very long time. Casey Affleck acted a bit too much like he was from the deep South. Bale picked up the accent pretty well, except his pronunciation of Braddock, which was atrocious. The film’s depiction of the town is pretty accurate. It’s not a place you want to hang out in, which thankfully I was blissfully unaware of when I was younger. Parts of post-apocalyptic movie The Road were filmed there, which offers a pretty good idea of what the area is like. I thought the movie itself was OK, but it seemed like they were trying to go too much for a Winter’s Bone type of thing.

    • Cheers for sharing the insights mate. I had no idea the Road was filmed in part there which is very interesting indeed. Winter’s Bone did do this type of deal a lot better although I appreciated the performances.

  5. Great review! I pretty much agree with you on all points too: loved the performances (esp. Woody), but the story was all over the place. Such wasted potential. I did notice a strong resemblance to the film ‘The Deer Hunter’ as well, not that it is in the same league, but there are a number of correlations. Now I think I’m going to see if this ‘Bogan Hunters’ thing is on youtube or something, it sounds trashy and awesome.

      • I think he’s a much better a actor than his brother. It was one of those occasions where the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

  6. It really wants to be the Deerhunter. The Jackson Whites are the Vietnamese. Christian Bale is Robert DeNiro and Casey Affleck is Christopher Walken.

    What might have been a lot more interesting is if they had honestly showed what a Pennsylvania Steel town decades after the Vietnam era was really like. Christian Bale shouldn’t be a steel worker. He should be working in a convenience store or selling drugs.

    I didn’t mind the plot about the bareknucked fights but what would people from North Jersey be driving all the way out to Western Pennsylvania for this kind of thing. Aren’t there some dangerous criminals people in Pittsburgh to cast as the villains?

    What I did like about this film was some of the cinematography. The car crash was excellent. The sequence where Christian Bale goes to North Jersey and finds himself in some kind of isolated redneck drug land was eerie and beautiful.

    Might have been better if they had just taken a page from Jim Jarmusch and created their own little world. They were halfway there anyway trying to reimagine The Deerhunter in the 2000s.

    • Great points on it relating back to the Deerhunter man I very much agree. It felt like a movie without its own personality which really killed the emotional investment side of things.

      • Would have been great if Christian Bale had an uncle who had been killed in Vietnam and a photo or something. I’m reframing the film. But I would have loved to have seen more about the downward mobility of the white working class. It did touch on it with Casey Affleck, which is why I don’t think it was a total failure.

  7. I love this movie and have watched it three times so far. It’s just so beautifully shot (I’m planning an entry on this on my own site). Casey Affleck is a real talent. Nice review, and as always, very well written.

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