JANUARY 7, 2014

With a stellar cast like OUT OF THE FURNACE has, I expected a little more from it. Much like ONLY GOD FORGIVES, the revenge plot is fairly simplistic (and similar). Fortunately it also has more meat on the bone. 

Blue-collar nice guy, Russell Blaze (Christian Bale) has lived a rough life and due to an unfortunate accident, it gets even more difficult and complicated, shattering his only real grasp on happiness. His brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) is a different story. Unable to cope with his return from the war, he’s developed quite a gambling debt that he has no intention of paying back. 

Fortunately, there are people watching over Rodney, but when he doesn’t heed their warnings, he gets pulled into the underground world of backwoods boxing in rural New Jersey run by the brutal Harlan DeGroat (a menacing Woody Harrelson). 

When Rodney goes missing and presumed dead, all roads lead to DeGroat. Unfortunately, the local police are unable to help, so Russell decides to take matters into his own hands with bloody results. 

Writer/Director Scott Cooper is best known for CRAZY HEART and knows how to handle complex characters and especially the rustic milieu. But these are mostly despicable individuals that revel in extreme violence, which OUT OF THE FURNACE doesn’t shy away from. 

Bale is excellent as is most of the supporting cast which includes Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard and Forest Whitaker. It is Casey Affleck though who really stands out. He is outstanding and in my opinion is one of the most underused and under appreciated actors working in film today. 

I wanted to love OUT OF THE FURNACE but it never rose above the backwoods material, which is done better every week on FX’s brilliant series JUSTIFIED.