Here’s the formula: Christian Bale tries to protect a scrappy Casey Affleck against an evil Woody Harrelson. Is this a gritty thriller during the Oscar season? Let this new feature try to explain “Out of the Furnace” — I’m calling it: The Good, The Bad, & The WTF?
Synopsis: Russell Baze (Bale) and his younger brother Rodney Jr. (Affleck) live in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. But when a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, his brother is lured into one of the most violent and ruthless crime rings in the Northeast.
- Christian Bale — As Russell Baze, Christian Bale gives another great acting performance. He’s tows that fine line between hard-working good guy and bad-ass who knows how to fight and use a gun. If this role and his upcoming “American Hustle” are considered, things are looking great for Bale to take home some statues during awards season.
- Life After Being a Soldier — This topic really doesn’t get enough attention in the mainstream media. There are many Veterans who find it hard to re-accommodate themselves to normal life when they are done their tour of duty in war. This theme is shown through Casey Affleck’s character, Rodney Jr., who can’t seem to fit in or settle for a normal life after three tours of duty in Afghanistan. I thought it was a great topic for mainstream audiences to see, and a fitting source of motivation for the Rodney Jr. character to begin fighting in underground boxing.
- Woody Harrelson — Man, can Woody Harrelson be creepy. But it works in this role as Harlan DeGroat, the leader of the dangerous Jersey criminal ring. (Yeah, you go, evil New Jersey!) Woody has some memorable scenes as Harlan, depicting him as the ruthless villain of the movie, including the movie’s first scene. You know right from the beginning that he’s not the guy you want to mess around with.
- The Pacing — There’s no easy way to say it. The beginning and the ending of this movie just drags on. The beginning I can understand, maybe the director and editor thought it would help describing the regular lives of these characters in the Rust Belt. But the ending, wow. The last fight scene is so drawn out. And it doesn’t need to be either, both the protagonist and the antagonist have access to an ample amount of guns, as shown throughout the whole movie. Maybe the director was trying to make the audience realize how regular people can be pushed to kill someone in the heat of the moment (i.e, Se7en). But it didn’t work.
- The Cops — The police in this movie are blatantly useless. Now, I know that this is a theme borrowed from film noir movies, but this idea is strictly used as a way to force the Russell Baze character to go rogue. Maybe it would have been nice for a reasoning behind why the Cops are useless, maybe they’re controlled by Harlan’s gang, or some dirty cops have a stake in the underground boxing syndicate. Some reason would have been nice, other than the typical “they just won’t do anything” police stereotype.
- Forest Whitaker — Speaking of cops, his cop character really didn’t add anything to the story. He randomly shows up to start dating Russell’s ex, admits to Russell that the cops can’t do anything about his brother’s disappearance (hmm, I wonder what that would do to a protective older brother?), and tries to stop Russell from killing Harlan. Yeah, he’s that guy. Meh.
- John Petty — Willem Dafoe plays this semi-connected loan shark bookie who tries to give Rodney Jr. what we wants to succeed. Although it’s cool to see a long-haired Willem Dafoe playing this role, the actual character is just messing everything up. He inadvertently causes Russell to go to prison and connects Rodney Jr. to Harlan’s gang. Every time Dafoe’s on screen in this movie, this is how you begin to react to his character: 1) Yeah, it’s Willem Dafoe! 2) Cool line coming up, right? 3) What’s he screwing up now? Trust me, you’ll develop this method of thinking pretty early on in this movie.
- Forgotten Gambling Debt? — One of the first scenes of this movie shows Rodney Jr. losing John Petty’s big money on horse racing. But then the rest of the movie, it’s never brought up again. Was this just to show that Rodney Jr. can’t handle money? (And wow, Willem Dafoe is the nicest loan shark bookie you’ll ever borrow money from!) Maybe I missed something, but WTF?