UK Release: January 29th 2014.
Scott Cooper (writer and director of ‘Crazy Heart’) second film ‘OUT OF THE FURNACE’, is a thriller about a blue collar, hard grafting, trying to do the right thing, working guy (Christian Bale) returning to his industrial town to discover that his brother (Casey Affleck) who has returned from Iraq is mad with why his friends had to die there, and instead of kicking off at politicians, he ends up in illegal, bare knuckle fights headed by a ‘Natural Born Killers’ redneck Woody Harrelson. Bale’s character also discovers his partner (Zoe Saldana) has moved on since he went into jail, leaving him on a mission to try rebuild his broken life.
What sounds like a sombre drama on paper turns into more a revenge (decent- man-turned -vigilante) styled thriller with a little more character than most which is highlighted when Bale is out for the kill on Harrelson redneck psychopath (something you might see in a 70’s action film). The film works fine, and the whole grim post-industrial America adds to make an interesting backdrop (Bale and Affleck’s family all have worked in the town’s steel mill). It is a shame though, that the film doesn’t do much more with this backdrop, the actual ‘’underground’’ fights happen in a old steel factory, and have battles which play out with the unusual take on blue collar versus white trash conflict. There are also noticeable visual influences from ‘The Deer Hunter’ also seen in this film.
The cast are great though, other accompany stars include Willem Defoe, Sam Sheppard, and Forest Whittaker. It is unfortunate though that Zoe Saldana is underutilized here playing a more ‘angel’ character to Bale’s tortured soul. Films it influenced by with its milieu (including the recent ‘Winter’s Bone’), at least give women more complex roles. It also has to rather broad character stereotypes (Rednecks are evil) etc. But it is a decent production, there is award worthy performances from Bale and Affleck, but it is unfortunate it struggles to come up with a story about the sorry state of modern America (hence the films genre change midway through its running time). Either way it is worth seeing just for its interesting backdrop and performances, but remember it’s a revenge thriller more than anything as it will play better as that.