Out of the Furnace Review
Its been pretty clear over the years that the world is full of bad people. Amoral sons of bitches that don't abide by the usual social norms. Many films have been made about these individuals, some great, some not-so-great, but all interesting attempts as we as a species try to sort out the meaning of good and evil in the world. I have seen many films about amoral people, but its been awhile since I've seen a film like "Out of the Furnace." This movie is brutal to watch, in fact, it gives brutality a new name. This is a thriller that plunges your face in the mud, not letting you gasp for air. On the other hand, it treats its characters with respect, and the audience buys into that respect.
From the film's beginning, we are lured into brutality. As Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) is on a date at a drive-in movie. The date is going less than well, she's concerned by all the drinking he's doing behind the wheel and he thinks she's annoying. This leads to a rough tussle that grabs other people's attention. When a man tries to call out DeGroat for roughing up his date, that man gets beaten badly by DeGroat. From this point, I knew I was in for a rough ride, and I was ready for anything.
After the fierce opening, we meet the Baze brothers, Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck). They are close, but their relationship is quite different than it used to be. Rodney has changed a lot since his four tours in Iraq, and this has lead him into contact with the wrong people. One thing I immediately loved about the movie is that it took its time to set up the relationship with the brothers. It did so in a promptly fashion, without over-stuffing the film needless filler. Bale and Affleck really mastered the dynamics of brotherhood for the movie, and if they didn't, this movie would have failed.
Rodney knowing the wrong people eventually gets him to cross paths with DeGroat, which leads Rodney to get kidnapped. This prompts Russell into getting the police to help, once the police are not sufficient, he takes matters into his own hands. This may sound like many other movies from the past, but the build-up is so confident, and so well-handled that it feels original, there is a grungy realism to this blue-collar world the characters inhabit that is intoxicating. With so many great actors at the helm of this story, its hard to have a favorite character. I can say though that Harrelson easily steals the show. For being a funny man most of his career, it was unbelievable how scary Harrelson was as DeGroat. This is a performance I think Harrelson has been working toward for awhile now, and people are going to be blown away by his work.
"Out of the Furnace" is a movie that isn't for everyone, however its a great time at the theater. The cast is near-perfect, and they take a simple story and make it matter. Director Scott Cooper has crafted a shivering tale that will have you thinking about it for awhile afterward. This may not be a family-friendly affair for the holidays, but its a solid Christmas present.
FINAL GRADE: A-