Out of the Furnace

Movie Review: Out of the Furnace (2013) *SPOILERS*

Christian Bale, Out of the Furnace
Out of the Furnace is not at all the movie I was expecting from the trailer.  Scott Cooper’s second film, following Crazy Heart (which won Jeff Bridges a Best Actor Oscar), is much less the rescue mission into hill country that the trailer hints and more a sad song building like a slow burn to an inevitable conclusion.Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play brothers in a small Pennsylvania town, the sort where “THE MILL” is its raison d’etre (yes, I realize the dichotomy of using a French phrase to describe a town in which describing something that way would probably get you popped….also probably “dichotomy” as well).  Bale is the responsible older brother, taking care of their dying father, has a steady job at the mill and Zoe Saldana as a girlfriend (so stuff doesn’t suck is what I’m saying, is that simpler?).  Affleck is US Army, stop-lossed into several tours in Iraq that have unhinged him.  He spends his time battling a gambling addiction and making money in underground fight clubs run by Willem DaFoe’s character (outstanding in a supporting role).

Casey Affleck, Out of the Furnace

It gets spoiler-y from here, so bail if that’s a concern.  Just as all lives can change on the tick of a secondhand, Bale’s falls to pieces when a car accident leaves him responsible for the death of a child.  He’s sent to prison and without him to hold things together, a series of sad events begin that would put a cliched country song to shame.  Bale leaves prison to find his world a wasteland and his brother even further gone to PTSD.  Increasingly desperate for a big pay day, Affleck pushes DaFoe to get him a fight in hill country where Woody Harrelson runs a fight club that makes Brad Pitt’s look like a swanky hotel.  When Affleck doesn’t return from his trip into Harrelson’s underground world, Bale decides how to handle the fallout.

Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace

That’s as much of the plot as I’ll give away and you probably can guess at most of it, but the order in which things happen surprised me and not, I think, for the good of the film.  There’s very little momentum built-up for a film with this caliber of cast.  To do what I think he was intending, Cooper needed to keep this on the razor’s edge for a good portion of the movie and you’re just not there.  You feel pity and sympathy, but not dread or suspense, which I think could have all been attained by reordering how events unfolded.


The film is a solid rental and another stellar performance from Christian Bale.  No one immerses himself in each role to the degree Bale does.  He becomes the person he embodies.  That this came out a week or so after American Hustle is incredible.  Actors are chameleons, the best ones, and none blends so well as Bale.  The supporting cast is all strong, especially DaFoe.  I’m not really sure why Forrest Whitaker is in this film because he has nothing to do, but it gives them another Oscar winner/nominee to stick on the poster.  Man, after watching this and season one of True Detectives this weekend, I need to watch some Cheers to even out my Woody Harrelson worldview…

Out of the Furnace is a good movie that should have been a great movie and I find those particularly frustrating.  Still, absolutely worth a look as a rental.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Out of the Furnace (2013) *SPOILERS*”

  1. thanks for the review, this is one I was pretty interested but had not been holding my breath on. I will have to pick it up. thanks dave


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