Out of the Furnace
Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Willem Dafoe squandered in this B-movie revenge scenario
All dressed up with nowhere to go, Scott Cooper’s follow-up to his award-garlanded Jeff Bridges drama Crazy Heart is a languid thriller, garnished with meaty performances in service of a deeply conventional narrative. The Rust Belt setting is powerfully evoked by the script, co-written by Cooper and Brad Ingelsby, but the plot could have worked better as a Steven Seagal vehicle.
Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is a furnace worker, haunted by his involvement in an accidental car-crash that killed a young girl. His protective feelings run high for his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), a war veteran who struggles to make a living in illegal bare-knuckle boxing. Although John Petty (Willem Dafoe) is pushing Rodney to fight more, the real danger comes from the fight promoter Harlan DeGroat, a drug-addled backwoods kingpin played with familiar psychotic intensity by Woody Harrelson. When Rodney’s experience turns sour, Russell is forced to start a turf-war with DeGroat, leading to a desolate showdown that’s telegraphed from the opening credits on.
With this kind of talent, Out of the Furnace is never boring, but the result is not particularly interesting either; unlike his lively turn as a slobby con-man in American Hustle, Bale is saddled with a conventional love-interest in Lena (Zoe Saldana), an improbable knack for DIY, and an iron will/invincible body combo which leaves no doubt as to the eventual outcome. Affleck, Dafoe and Harrelson all do their very best to whip up a storm, but Cooper is guilty of wasting A-list talent on a B-movie revenge scenario. The milieu of poverty, unemployment and hard-drug use is convincing, but the forced melodrama of Out of The Furnace is likely to leave all but students of method acting feeling a little left out in the cold.
General release from Wed 29 Jan.