Man, life is just too happy. Great things happen all the time, rainbows explode out of my dick at my command, and women just can’t get enough of me. Sometimes, I feel the need to neuter some of that euphoria. Life throws too many wonderful things my way, and fuck that. I need some sadness in my life, damn it. Something to really get me down and remind me that the world is a cold bitch. Good thing we’ve got a movie that fits the bill!
Out of the Furnace, another chapter in the Legacy of Christian Bale’s Awesome Facial Hair, stars Batman as Russell Baze, who works at the steel mill somewhere in the Rust Belt. They’re talking about closing the mill, because in the movies, the mill never stays open. Russell’s brother, Rodney Jr. (Casey Affleck), is an Iraq veteran unable to find a job and who refuses to work at the mill because their dad is terminally ill (fucking CALLED IT) as a result of the job (and because the mill is closing). So he owes a lot of money to Willem Dafoe, and joins an underground fighting ring. Russell gets into a drunk driving accident and kills a mother and her child, landing himself in prison and losing his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana, now with jeans that are 20% less tight) to Chief Wesley Barnes (Forest Whitaker). To settle his debts, Rodney Jr. joins the fighting circle of the ruthless Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson, playing the most Disney villain nameiest character since…forever) and goes missing. Russell begins his hunt for DeGroat to find justice, and perhaps a good barber.
Woody Harrelson will make you forget about all the charming nice guys he’s ever been and plays the ultimate motherfucker here. Don’t believe me? The opening pre-title card sequences involves him forcing a hot dog down the throat of a girl he’s with at the drive-in, beating the shit out of a guy that tries to intervene, and then pushing his date out of the car before driving away. He also kills a handful of people in cold blood, intimidates others, and generally acts like the biggest asshole the world has ever seen.
In fact, they’re all fantastic. If nothing else, Scott Cooper pulls some great performances from his actors. Though Harrelson impresses early, it’s Christian Bale that really knocks it out of the park (what else is new?). He’s nuanced; he looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. The firecracker Rodney Jr. is portrayed excellently by Casey Affleck, and Affleck is an actor of enough power to convey a great deal in a mere look or phrase.
Cooper also really knows how to frame the shit out of a shot. Out of the Furnace has great cinematography. It’s nothing special, but it has an extremely organic look and feel, and doesn’t get too showy save for a couple of instances. The last 10 minutes are really great, as Russell finally tracks down his quarry, and the revenge he visits is satisfyingly brutal.
As astonishingly well-directed as the movie is, it’s about as well-written as the winning entry to the creative writing contest of your local magazine. That’s a bit unfair, actually. There are some great elements to the script, nearly all of them involving how great of a guy Russell Baze is. In particular, there’s a great emotional exchange between him and his ex, where she explains that she’s pregnant from Chief Barnes, and he tearfully congratulates her. They both wanted things to work out between them, and this scene really drives it home. Other times, however, the plot feels a bit too smug, like the writers thought they had something really profound and then just kind of stopped.
As a by-product of that questionable writing, the movie has a bit of a choppy feel. Towards the beginning, Russ is working in the mines, then he goes to jail after a drunk driving accident and his brother goes on a fourth tour in Iraq. When he gets out, his dad has died and his brother is back. Exactly how much time passed in prison? We don’t know, and the movie doesn’t say. He also gets in a fight in prison, but literally nothing comes of that. There’s the feeling that the movie wants to just show events in a man’s life, but events without context or consequences are boring, like relationships if “events” are “sex” and “context” is “emotional breakdowns.”
Ultimately, Out of the Furnace is like a disappointing porn movie: It looks good from the preview and is actually pretty decent with a lot of great actors, but ultimately isn’t what you were looking for and fails to be satisfying. Still, the money shot is pretty good.
Do a Shot: every time Woody Harrelson does something dickish.
Take a Drink: every time someone cries or has an angry outburst.
Take a Drink: every time Bale mumbles or Affleck whines.
Pour a Double: because they’re talking about closing the mill. In the movies, they’re always talking about closing the mill.