Out Of The Furnace - DVD Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
IF THE ’70s are generally considered to be the heyday of American dramatic cinema, then Scott Cooper has clearly been paying close attention.
Out Of The Furnace, his follow-up to the Oscar winning Crazy Heart, sits comfortably alongside films such as The Deer Hunter and Coming Home as both a blistering character driven thriller and a snapshot of American life in the wake of war.
Where the ’70s had Vietnam, contemporary audiences have Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the legacy of 9/11, which looms large here, as does the fragility of life and how one decision can change it’s course irrevocably.
Christian Bale heads up an outstanding cast as Russell Baze, a hard working, honest steel worker whose life takes a turn for the worse when he decides to come to the aid of his brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), a soldier who has lost his way following tours of duty and who has wracked up gambling debts.
When circumstances dictate that Russell has to serve a spell in prison, he re-emerges to find his woman (Zoe Saldana) sharing her life with another man (Forest Whitaker) and his brother now bare knuckle brawling to make ends meet. But just as things couldn’t get any worse, Rodney goes missing with all blame pointed towards a local trouble-maker and fight fixer named Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson).
Whereas Cooper’s debut feature Crazy Heart wore its redemptive values on its sleeve, Out Of The Furnace smacks of the hardship and desperation enveloping its disparate lost souls. This is a tough journey that boasts a gritty, raw feel reminiscent of those ’70s classics previously mentioned.
In doing so, it considers the fallout of both America’s foreign military policy and the country’s financial collapse, a double whammy that takes no prisoners and drives men and women to the edge.
It also draws some terrific performances, with Bale suitably heartbreaking as the good man attempting to navigate his way through an ever worsening situation. A scene between him and Saldana offers up a dramatic highlight that tugs at the heart-strings and underlines the film’s emotional pull, but is more than matched by a confrontation between him and Harrelson in which the thriller elements come to the boil brilliantly.
Affleck, too, delivers a complex portrait of a tormented, lost soul, while Harrelson oozes menace and violent rage as Harlan. Willem Dafoe, Sam Shephard, Saldana, Whitaker and Tom Bower also get moments to shine too.
Some viewers may find Out Out Of The Furnace a little too intense and downbeat. But for my money, this is a gripping and powerful movie that lingers long in the memory and gives you plenty to think about. It deserves to stand in the higher echelons of American filmmaking.
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: June 2, 2014