Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson
Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker
There are a select few names that get my attention immediately, names that I might watch in a film even if every sign pointed to disaster. Tom Hanks, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis; actors that I respect enough to trust with almost anything. Christian Bale is right up there on that level. He's a proven talent who brings something new to every role, who can get me into a theatre with nothing more than a mention. Now, let's be honest, he's had his fair share of clunkers. Public Enemies, Terminator Salvation, Reign of Fire; all films that failed, at least in my mind. But it really doesn't matter, he still draws me in, because I know he'll produce another American Hustle, The Fighter, or American Psycho. Luckily, Out of the Furnace is in the latter category, a film that succeeded on every level and is one of Bale's best, if more quiet, performances to date.
It's a tale of two brothers, as classic as the idea of kinship and revenge. Russell & Rodney Baze may be related, but they live quite different lives. Russell the hard-working, reserved older brother, Rodney the impetuous, troublesome younger. Russell has worked at the town mill all his adult life, just as his father did before him. Rodney joined the army but never really escaped, finding himself in debt and in over his head more often than not. But it's Russell who makes the big mistake, drinking & driving & spending time locked away. When he gets out, Rodney has sunk deeper into an underworld of gambling, bare-knuckle boxing, dirty money, and dangerous people. But the two are brothers and that bond can't be severed. So when Rodney get's into the biggest trouble of his life, his family is right there at his back, willing to pay any price for revenge, restitution, and the balance of honor.
Of course Christian Bale is excellent in this film, let's just get that out of the way now. He plays Russell with a silent strength, with a deep rumble that you can feel just beneath the surface. It's one of the more understated roles I've ever seen him play, and that sort of control over your talent is something not often seen. It's not the most dramatic or impressive performance perhaps, but every action and every expression speak volumes, creating a mood that I just loved. I appreciate very much when a director lets the film do it's own talking, when every emotion doesn't have to be spelled out, when I'm allowed to find my own way through the story. Out of the Furnace exhibited this kind of restraint, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't fail to mention the side actors, as they did an incredible job as well. Affleck & Harrelson especially, two characters who were excellently cast and performed perfectly. This is a film that I would have rated five stars had there been anything to love, but it just wasn't that kind of movie. It was dark, quiet, laden, and allowed its actors to tell its story in a way that was great to see. Hard to love perhaps, but with a quality that's impossible to deny.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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