OUT OF THE FURNACE // Tent-poled by an amazing cast, “Out Of The Furnace” is nothing if not an exercise in excellent casting choices. Say what you will, but Christian Bale is a huge draw. Even with his Batman days behind him, his Oscar winning performance in “The Fighter” is enough proof to say he can get people in a theater seat. Playing nice guy ex-con Russell Blaze, a mill worker who is the product of the people around him, Bale delivers a calculated performance that pays off, heightening the performances as a whole. One performance that needs no heightening is that of Casey Affleck, who once again proves to be one of my favorite actors, playing Russell’s brother Rodney. In and out of tours for the Army, Rodney is not okay and instead of finding real work outside of the military, he chooses to bare-knuckle box. This brings in two of the usual suspects, Willem Dafoe as sleazy bar owner John Petty and Woody Harrelson as redneck kingpin Harlan DeGroat, with outstanding performances from both men.

To set the stage for the entire film, the opening sequence see Harlan shoving a hot dog down his dates throat, pulling her from the car, and violently punching a man just trying to help. With Rodney owing John some serious cash, they retreat to the hills where redneck justice prevails, to settle a debt with Harlan by throwing a fight. But when things go south and Rodney goes missing, Russell, who is recently released from jail, takes it upon himself to find him. Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) reveals his steady hand at directing, bringing to life an otherwise straightforward narrative and giving it a richer, darker feel. Also, with no problem pushing his characters to the brink, Bale’s Russell faces loss after loss, losing his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) to the local police chief (Forest Whitaker) and losing his father while in jail, the fact that he’s willing to go balls to the wall for his brother is no surprise. With his uncle (Sam Shepherd) by his side, “Out Of The Furnace” brings an A-list cast to an otherwise violent and cold thriller. Unfortunately, no one will be winning any awards from this film, but with highlight performances from Bale and Affleck, this will still continue to open doors for these men and remains another success in Scott Cooper’s unfolding career.

[Directed by Scott Cooper] [R] [116 min] [6 December 2013]   07threehalf-stars


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