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Review: Out of the Furnace

Relativity Media: Christian Bale in "Out of the Furnace"When people choose dangerous ways to make a living, it’s usually chosen because they either have no choice or they’re somehow just attracted to the perilous pitfalls that are presented to them when on the job. Both of these ends of the spectrum are represented in Out of the Furnace when looking at the two brothers at the center of the film. They’ve both selected occupations that can get them paid at the end of the day, while facing the possibility of receiving a payoff that could result in them seeing the end of their lives.

One of the brothers being featured in Out of the Furnace is played by Christian Bale. He stars as Russell Baze, a hardworking man who makes the money he earns in the mills of New Braddock, New Jersey. It’s not the type of job that people are dying to get a chance to do, but it pays the bills and allows him to survive like he needs to.

While he works in the mills, his brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck) attempts to make his money by exchanging fists with other men in an underground fight club where using your bare knuckles is the only option. This line of work is as unstable as you could get, but he doesn’t feel as if the usual opportunities around his neck of the woods are right for him. Being a former soldier, Rodney feels like this is a way for him to put his talents and skills to good use even if the people who love him want him to stop.

Not only can he get severely damaged by taking part in these illegal, bloody and brutal displays of toughness, he’s also surrounding himself with a bunch of shady characters who are up to no good. So, what he sees as a means to some kind of financial end, everyone else sees it as the dangerous world that it is and all the negative things that it represents all involved. It also doesn’t help when you see that he isn’t exactly bringing in a lot of money from the one on one duels that he’s participating in.

The truth is that Rodney doesn’t only have his face hurting from these fights, his wallet is in just as much pain if not more, due to the massive amount of debt that he finds himself swimming in. In order to stay away from drowning in it, he leans on Russell to assist him in paying off what he owes, but even that doesn’t ease much of the financial pain that he’s in. To fix this dilemma, he’s going to have to go deeper and deeper into the fight world and ends up vanishing from sight.

With the police unable to come up with any answers and finding himself with nothing to lose, Russell makes the decision to do all he can to either save his brother before something happens to him if he happens to still be alive or seek revenge to whoever may have murdered him if he isn’t. This leads him to a place where he’s staring intently down the scope of his hunting rifle at any person or group who may be responsible for Rodney’s mysterious disappearance.

Predicated on the story line alone, you’re bound to know what’s going on and what to expect from Out of the Furnace. This film headed by director Scott Cooper wants to be a rugged flick that delivers some brutality in the cold world where these characters reside. While that’s what he hopes for, I’d imagine the audience who’s interested in this movie is hoping for this to be a lot of things as well. I mean, just by looking at the cast, it’s clear to see where people like myself would expect something great.

With a cast that creates a certain amount of expectations that are at least reasonable, Out of the Furnace doesn’t live up to the quality that I wanted it to have. To start off with the reasons for my displeasure with this film, I’ll look at what I see as a bare story that offers nothing worth watching under any circumstance. As it turns out, Out of the Furnace is an empty as a movie can get in many ways. I was looking at this as being something with some elements of surprise and suspense to go along with a movie filled with some potentially unforgiving violence.

There’s violence here that can be seen as unforgiving, but there’s not much of it or anything else outside of it. Again with this cast, a director who’s made some highly regarded films and people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott producing and supporting it, you’d only be right to anticipate that you’re going to get something that’s deep and of high quality, but that’s not what happens here at all. What is presented to the audience in Out of the Furnace is somewhat of a revenge tale that’s stripped of all the things that make revenge tales popular amongst fans and filmmakers alike.

There’s barely any drama to be seen in this movie, there’s no build up to the ultimate pay off that we witness at the end, but there are multiple characters who have nothing to do in this movie beside exist. Out of all the problems that Out of the Furnace has, the lack of significance in the characters is one of the more egregious flaws in the movie when you take a look at actors who’ve been cast and the accolades they’ve garnered over the years.

Out of the seven actors that get on the advertisements, trailers and posters of this movie, only about three of them get any real screen time that contains any significance whatsoever. I’m not going to talk about who those three are, but it’s clear from my description of the film who to of them are. I’ll let you figure out the other person for yourself. Most likely you’ll be wrong by the way. One of the people who gets no attention is probably the guy you’d pick as having a big role just by looking at the names.

While I won’t mention the third actor that’s somewhat important in the movie, one person that I will mention when it comes to complete insignificance is Zoe Saldana. Her character can be described as the girlfriend of Bale’s Russell Baze. She doesn’t actually do anything, so I guess they have her in here just because they needed a woman in the movie somewhere. Her part of the Out of the Furnace story line is essentially meaningless and rendered inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. That’s a fate that just about every character in the movie suffers, but I felt like pointing hers out since it looked like her portion of the film might actually be used for something down the road.

With its lengthy running time of nearly two hours and all the other stuff that I mentioned, it’s clear that I believe that Out of the Furnace stumbles out of the blocks and never comes close to recovering. It’s hard for me to see people actually liking this movie due to its lack of substance, suspense and development of any kind. Even after watching this, my shock here remains at how shallow this movie is and how pointless its own creator chose to make it. In the end, I’m left asking why was such a trivial movie with a top-notch cast even made if there’s not going to be something in it that’s at least memorable?

Score: 1/5

Rating: R

Director: Scott Cooper

Cast:
Christian Bale
Woody Harrelson
Casey Affleck
Sam Shepard
Zoe Saldana
Willem Dafoe
Forest Whitaker

Film Length: 116 minutes

Release Date: December 6, 2013

Distributor: Relativity Media

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