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Film Review: “Out of the Furnace” Is Slow, Somber, and Ultimately Pointless

Photo: Appian Way

Set against the backdrop of a depressed steel mill town, the dark-and-dirty crime drama Out of the Furnace tells the story of brothers Russell Baze (Christian Bale) and Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck).

Rodney is a troubled Iraq War vet who can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble, while Russell simultaneously worries over his brother and broods over the woman he lost (Zoe Saldana) after going to prison for drunk driving.

The A-list cast, which also includes Forest Whitaker, Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, and Willem Dafoe, doesn’t make up for the movie’s shortcomings, unfortunately. Out of the Furnace achieves its goal of being as depressing as possible, with scenes of grotesque violence and unyielding brutality juxtaposed against a grimy small town devoid of anything pleasant or hopeful. It’s all very bleak, and director Scott Cooper does a good job of immersing the audience into this very gloomy and violent world. Ultimately, it’s all rather pointless – except to say ‘life’s a bitch and then you die.’

We’re essentially watching Christian Bale’s life fall apart at the seams, and while some audiences might find that enjoyable, I did not. The movie is incredibly slow, as well, and at nearly 2 hours, my patience with Out of the Furnace was running thin.

Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson plays Harlan DeGroat, a character who is so malevolent and pure evil, that it’s only believable because of the strong performance behind it. And I mean, it’s a really good performance. The acting is probably this movie’s biggest strength, with its second biggest strength being the setting and how that plays into the character’s everyday lives.

Maybe the bigger point this movie was trying to make was about the collapse of the American Dream (just like several other films this year including The Great Gatsby, Side Effects, Pain and Gain, The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers, American Hustle, and The Wolf of Wall Street), but the only thing I took away from this movie is that Christian Bale continues to be a very good actor. Towards the end, Out of the Furnace devolves into your typical revenge thriller.

I can’t bring myself to recommend this movie to anyone, but if you enjoy incredibly slow, boring, dark, and depressing movies that lack substance or meaning, then by all means, go watch Out of the Furnace. As for everyone else, avoid at all costs. Not even the performances are worth the 2 hours you’ll be wasting.

one and a half stars

  • Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson
  • Directed by: Scott Cooper
  • Running Time: 1hr 56min
  • Genre: Drama