Review: Out of the Furnace

Out of the Furnace Poster

Christian Bale is a man whose brother (Casey Affleck) is taken from him by a crazed illegal fights racketeer (Woody Harrelson).  Willem DafoeForest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard fill out the cast of this action drama revenge flick.  Directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott, it seems like a no-fail formula for success.

You know how sometimes the films with the best cast end up failing the worst?  This is one of those films.  It’s a pretty straightforward setup.  When unfortunate circumstances land Russel Blaze (Bale)  in prison, his family in the impoverished Rust Belt falls apart.  His ailing father dies and his younger brother (Affleck) gets caught up in a criminal ring involving illegal fist fights, getting mixed up with shady and mostly insane characters played by Dafoe and Harrelson.  Released from prison, Russel risks everything he has to seek out justice for the wrongs done to his brother.

The plot sounds interesting and the cast is stellar, but it goes absolutely nowhere.  Once things finally get around to actually, you know, happening, things are wrapped up in an unsatisfying ending that happens as abruptly as a car slamming on its breaks.  It’s not a short film, but it feels like it because not much happens throughout.  With the exception of a fascinating performance by Harrelson, the cast feels wasted on undeveloped roles, some of which amount to not much more than a cameo, such as the case of Saldana.

There is a lot of material here dealing with family, loss, revenge, the Iraq war, justice, and poverty.  It’s like Cooper, who also wrote the screenplay, didn’t know what to do with all that material, writing a few interesting scenes loosely connected, with little impact because they are inhabited by characters we don’t even begin to want to care about.

Part of the fault surely lays on the way the dialogue is delivered.  Following the school of thought that a serious film must be populated by people mumbling and spewing half formed sentences, this “gritty drama” technique only serves to confuse and alienate, making what little story there is, hard to follow if you even have the desire to try and do so.

I was severely disappointed in this film, given it’s overall premise and enticing trailer.  I’d be happy to see a film centered around Woody Harrelson’s character here, but everything else can go out the window as far as I am concerned.  It just never materializes into anything.

Mrs. Hamster says:

“I wasn’t really paying attention, but it was hard to follow and boring.”

My Rating: Two out of Five Hats

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Trailer:

Out of the Furnace burns 2,101 theaters December 4