Out of the Furnace
Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace, a movie with a title that makes about as much sense as the story, seems to be trying to make some sort of social commentary on soldiers who return from war and receive no help finding jobs, but that part of the movie is so skeletal all that’s left is a plodding drama with no clear direction. Fortunately Cooper and crew somehow drummed up an excellent cast capable of saving the below average quality of the script and making the film watchable. The finished product is something that starts out great, and gradually gets worse the longer it goes, culminating in a climax that’s arguably the most boring part of the film. People were saying this was Oscar-worthy?
Set in some bizarre part of the country where every stranger wants to beat you up and females are an endangered species, Russell Baze (Christian Bale, at long last speaking clearly again) works at a ‘mill,’ some kind of metalwork factory. Russell is at a low point in his life when his dad becomes deathly ill and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck, whose older brother Ben is about to get his voice as gravelly as Bale did) is about to leave to go fight for the army. Russell’s relationship with Lena (Zoe Saldana) is the only good thing he has, but even that is taken away when a tragedy occurs unexpectedly, and Russell ends up in jail for about eight years.
Once Russell is released and Rodney returns home from fighting, Russell resumes work at the mill, but Rodney has less luck landing a job, which ushers in the film’s first and only scene dealing with how difficult it is for soldiers to get jobs once returning home, the theoretical main point of the film. Eventually Rodney finds work in a ruthless fighting ring, getting paid to be beaten up (in most of the fights he takes on, he is supposed to lose purposefully). His fighting lands the attention of ringleader DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a misogynist drug addict excellently despicable thanks to Harrelson. Soon, Russell has to save his brother and make a choice that can jeopardize his newfound freedom and send him back to the metaphoric furnace (oh okay, now the title makes sense).
The film tries raising questions about America and freedom that don’t necessarily need to be raised in the first place. The concept of the film is not bad, but was executed incredibly poorly. What with this cast could have been a powerful statement about the treatment of American soldiers was instead handled borderline disrespectfully as an accessorized subplot, discarded as soon as it fulfilled its drama-stirring quota for the story. Bale does his best with Russell, whose arc wants to prove that in the society we live in, even the lives of good people can be ruined by an innocent mistake. Okay, true. What about it? Whatever message the movie was trying to convey never found its way out of the furnace, unlike the heaping serving of well-acted but poorly written drama the audience is served for 116 minutes.
The cast was entirely overqualified for the script, but at least we had them to help us stay awake. Harrelson’s character is a standout as a truly terrifying villain who manages to be convincing despite the fact that probably no one like him exists in real life (the film’s opening scene proves he can’t quietly enjoy a movie at a drive-in without stealing his date’s food, almost choking her to death, viciously beating the man in the car next to him, and threatening to murder everyone in attendance). Paralleling Bale’s character, the two actors initially come head-to-head in the climax, which is why it’s baffling that these two actors could have produced easily the film’s low point. The film gradually gets worse as it goes on, and this scene caps off the point of no return.
When deciding whether to leave the furnace to go see this movie or not, the better decision is probably to stay in. The Oscar bait has yet to emerge.
Hey guys. I applied for membership to join online movie review community The Lamb. If you don’t know what that is for some reason, check it out here: http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com. Thanks a bunch. All hail the Lamb.