Scott Cooper’s latest, “Out of the Furnace,” is a small-scale film packed with large-scale performances. The plot is simple, yet the film bloats itself with entirely too much content, which results in a dull, forgettable watch.
The film takes place in the Appalachian regions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, an area wrought with poverty and crime. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play brothers- Bale taking the high road and working at the local steel mill, and Affleck, an army veteran, pursuing underground fight clubs. After things go wrong after a fight in New Jersey, it’s up to Bale’s character to hunt down the evil drug-peddling organizer played by Woody Harrelson to locate his recently missing brother.
That’s the bare bones version of the film, which actually contains way more plot- so much in fact, that it’s a detriment to the movie itself. At one point Bale’s character gets sent to prison. Then there’s his relationship with Zoe Saldana. Then there’s Willem DaFoe’s character who owns a bar and Is also an underground fight coordinator. Then there’s Bale and Affleck’s father who is on his deathbed and their uncle played by Sam Shepard. There’s even more going on than that, but the point is there’s so much happening that everything feels muddled and the actual main storyline feels like a footnote by the end.
If it weren’t for the outstanding performances all around, this would be an absolute chore to sit through. Fortunately, everyone involved brings their A-game with the exception of a few overly-theatrical moments here and there. Christian Bale, who commands the most screen time, does an impressive Pennsylvanian accent and proves once again that he can seamlessly transform into whatever role he takes on. Woody Harrelson played an excellent villain; someone designed to be hated right from the powerful, yet unnecessary opening scene. Even Zoe Saldana, who doesn’t seem to fit in the run down town of Braddock, did an admirable job in the small role she played.
The production and costume design was spot on as well, giving everyone that run down weathered look. They all looked like products of their environment, which added to the overall realism of the film. The cinematography was well done, however the nearly non-stop extreme close-ups and very tight shots were not for me. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s a stylistic choice that conflicts with my personal preference when it comes to the look of a film.
“Out of the Furnace” boasts an extremely impressive cast, but falls extremely short in the script resulting in a less than impressive drama that attempts to pass itself off as a thriller. The trailer makes it out to be a story revolving around a man trying to find his lost brother, but it becomes evident fairly early on that that concept is slightly mismarketed. Great performances are just not enough to recommend this as anything more than a rental.