Out of the Furnace (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/01/2014

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Scott Cooper's intense, downbeat thriller is superbly acted and strongly atmospheric, but the pacing frequently drags and the script feels predictable and over-familiar.

What's it all about?
Directed by Scott Cooper, Out of the Furnace is set in the Rust Belt (Pittsburgh) and stars Christian Bale as Russell Baze, a steel mill worker who divides his free time between his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), looking after his terminally ill father (Bingo O'Malley) and trying to keep his four-tour Iraq War veteran younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) out of trouble. However, an unfortunate car accident lands Russell with a spell in jail and when he gets out, everything has changed: his father is dead, his girlfriend has taken up with a local cop (Forest Whitaker) and Rodney is deep in debt to local bookie Petty (Willem Dafoe), paying what he owes by fighting in bare-knuckle boxing matches arranged by violent local criminal Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson).

After Rodney mysteriously disappears, Russell suspects Harlan is responsible, but when the police refuse to investigate, he's forced to take matters into his own hands and turns to his uncle Red (Sam Shepard) for help.

The Good
As you'd expect from such a mouth-watering cast, the performances are excellent. Bale convinces as a kind-hearted man pushed to the limit after trying to do the right thing, while Affleck is superb as a weak-minded thrill-seeker whose hot-headed temper draws him inexorably into trouble. Similarly, Harrelson is gloriously evil as Harlan, clearly relishing the chance to create someone truly horrifying (his brutal introduction sequence is the most memorable scene in the film), and there's strong support from Dafoe (who does unexpectedly sympathetic things with what could have been an extremely one-note role), though both Whitaker and Saldana are conspicuously under-used - indeed, the relationship element features so little that it might as well have been dropped altogether.

Co-writer/director Cooper creates an authentically gritty, downbeat atmosphere, heightened by some impressively bleak Pittsburgh landscapes and Masanobu Takayanagi's stunning cinematography. There's also a typically great score from Dickon Hinchliffe that adds considerably to the film's overall ambience.

The Bad
The script touches on some resonant themes in places (such as the failing economy and psychological damage done to returning soldiers), but the central story feels both predictable and heavily clichéd. This isn't helped by the film's pacing, which drags considerably, particularly in the first half.

Worth seeing?
Grimly atmospheric and relentlessly downbeat, Out of the Furnace is ultimately worth seeing for its stand-out performances from Bale, Affleck and Harrelson, though it's slightly let down by poor pacing and an under-developed, over-familiar script. Great final scene though.

Film Trailer

Out of the Furnace (15)
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Content updated: 24/10/2017 03:18

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