If you’re depressed and looking for a feel good movie, I would suggest not renting “Out of the Furnace” this week; but if you’re looking for a good dose of revenge, this might be just the medicine for you.
“Out of the Furnace” takes place over several years somewhere in small town Appalachia, Pennsylvania, where steel mill working seems to be the dominant trade. (The film was shot mostly in Braddock, Pennsylvania.) Russell Baze (Christian Bale) and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) are trying to make ends meet in two different ways: Russell, by working in the mills, and Rodney, by doing military tours in Iraq, and then turning to bare-knuckled fighting.
Rodney, who has an affliction for gambling on the ponies, gets in deep with a sleazy local loan shark named John Petty (Willem Dafoe), who also dabbles in the wagering of bare knuckled fighting. Rodney convinces Petty to contact Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a vicious, drugged-up thug who runs some “extreme games” in New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains, to set up a fight for him. After trying to dissuade Rodney from dealing with the deadbeats from Ramapo, Petty succumbs and arranges the fight. Rodney, who has been getting bailed out by his big brother his whole life, is about to go somewhere Russell won’t be able to help.
This movie has the same bleak aura that the “Deer Hunter” radiated: Steel mills, depression, drugs and drinking, and plenty of violence. There is a sense of that “no way out” mentality expressed by all involved. Christian Bale continues to amaze me with his versatility, coming off a terrific performance in “American Hustle”; Casey Affleck has Iraq written all over him, and Woody Harrelson is outright scary. There are also some fine bit parts by Forrest Whitaker, Sam Sheppard, and Zoe Saldana. This is a good movie, but be prepared for plenty of graphic violence.
My Rating: 4 of 5 Knuckle Sandwiches.