Saturday, December 7, 2013
Jumping into Out of the Furnace
What Out of the Furnace is ultimately about is a bond that a family shares--particularly brothers--and their relationship to their hometown. Russell (Christian Bale) is a mill worker with a beautiful girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) who is just trying to make ends meet. Though he clearly doesn't have the money, Russell tries to pay off Rodney's (Casey Affleck, portraying his younger brother) debt with a local bookie snake, John Petty (Willem Dafoe). Not long after, Russell begins an extended stay at a prison for an unfortunate event, and it changes the family's life forever.
Everything is different for Russell when--years later--he's released from prison. Rodney, who served numerous tours with the military overseas and is a loose cannon because of it, has gotten involved with a bare-knuckle boxing crime ring. Russell realizes how far Rodney has gone into the deep shit pile too late: once he gets mixed up with backwoods "inbreed" Harlan DeGroat (a sadistic Woody Harrelson), it sets into motion a chain of unfortunate events that leads Russell and his aging uncle on a crusade into Appalachia, full of run-down meth labs, tattooed freaks, and drugged-out, violent men.
None of the characters in Out of the Furnace have it figured out: they're all trying to get by, either by clocking in at the mill or participating in criminal activity. Their stories of vengeance, of retribution, of redemption all criss/cross into a cat and mouse finale filmed with the morning sun just coming up over the horizon. It's one of the few beautiful scenes in the film, and--like the previous 100 minutes--it ends in an act of violence. The film is not perfect: its melodramatic but still charming because of the skill of its actors. And a few coincidences are a tiny bit eye-rolling, specifically a pocket-dial on a cellphone. But these instances don't take away from Out of the Furnace, a dark and well-acted Mill Town saga. (B+)