Bursting at the seams with star-studded talent, this working class drama tells the story of an undying love between brothers Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck). With their mother gone and their father on his deathbed, Russell has risen to the challenge of playing paternal figure to Rodney. However, when Russell is involved in a car accident, that results in the death of a child, the brothers lives are turned upside down forever. When Russell finally leaves prison he learns that his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana) has left him and his father has died. Rodney, back from a fourth mission in Iraq, is showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder and has begun working as a street fighter for shady character John Petty (Willem Dafoe). When Rodney and John fail to return from a fight in a dodgy part of town and the police fail to find Rodney, Russell takes the law into his own hands and seeks revenge on those who have brought harm to his family.
The story line is interesting enough, even though the ending is somewhat predictable. However, the film fails to deal with the deeper underlying themes that are inherently present in such a story. Out of the Furnace had the opportunity to provoke thought on issues of violence in the working class, the struggles of soldiers readjusting to society after time spent at war and the unique love that binds family and will drive them to the edge of their limits to protect one another. The film touches on these issues but fails to get into the nitty gritty.
The performances are unsurprisingly spectacular and the all-star cast have certainly delivered. Christian Bale’s ability to go from laughter to tears in the space of twenty seconds while a crippling desperation plagues both facial expressions (crying and laughter) is outstanding. Though one has to wonder if it’s time he broadens his film choices. Out of the Furnace is somewhat similar to The Fighter, what with its themes of the working class, street boxing and crack cocaine.
The impressive performances don’t stop there. Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Harlan DeGroat, a brutal inbred hick, is unsettlingly convincing. The film opens on a scene of him forcing a woman to deep throat a hot dog at a drive-in, when a bystander attempts to help the woman, Harlan annihilates the guy with his fists. From the beginning he plays up the portrayal of Harlan DeGroat as the temperamental, slack jawed yokel with a short fuse and frightful disposition.
Out of the Furnace isn’t a film you want to watch if you’re feeling down. It’s an unapologetic, grim drama about the trials of fate for two blue collar brothers existing in a bleak town. It may not fully confront the difficult themes it raises but its phenomenal performances are sure to have audiences entertained until the very end.