Revenge is always an ugly concept no matter which way you slice it. "Out of the Furnace" is a star studded yet oddly quiet tale that tends to think that's dramatic flourishes and serious was is a little more meaningful and insightful then it actually was.
Russell (Christian Bale) and his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) live in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. However when a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, his brother is lured into one of the most violent and ruthless bare knuckling fighting rings in the Northeast. Run by the unforgiving crime lord Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), it's ultimately a mistake that will cost Rodney more than he bargained for. Now free having paid for his unfortunate mistake, Russell must choose between his own freedom, or risk it all to seek justice for his brother.
A thriller that actually isn't all that thrilling, Out of the Furnace still manages some decent performances that at least manage to work on a psychological level but never succeed in creating any genuine dread in the audience.
In his follow up to Crazy Heart, co-writer and director Scott Cooper is certainly skilled enough at crafting a narrative and he certainly makes the stark country side of Pennsylvania and West Virginia look amazing, but we never really connect with the events that are happening around us. It's truly a case of using some excellent photography and actor's staring off into the distance with an intense gaze trying to a lot more then should have ever been asked of it. The intent was there but the execution just wasn't as what is supposed to be genuine emotional power from this loaded ensemble cast ends up as wasted and misdirected energy that never comes across to the audience
Christian Bale as Russell Baze never quite gets there as the quiet rage he feels for his life falling apart feels like indifference at times. Casey Affleck was solid as younger Rodney and effectively played a disaffected returning war veteran who can't quite find his place in the world. Woody Harrelson gets to shine as the vicious, scenery munching Harlan however his performance gets somewhat disarmed as the rest of the characters are never quite as afraid of him as we in the audience are. Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker all turn up in various roles, but nothing about any of these characters and their interactions truly has the gravitas that felt like was supposed to be present.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are certainly good enough, while the special features on this combo pack release include a 'making of' featurette as well as a look at how the choreograph the fight scenes and what inspired in the cast to go into acting.
"Out of the Furnace" is ultimately an interesting failure, as you get what the filmmakers were going for, it just never come across to us in the audience and it makes for a fairly flat experience.
2 out of 5 stars.