Out of the Furnace

Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) has a message in his new film Out of the Furnace that is neither cathartic nor revelatory. It's just distressing. The film, co-written by Cooper and Brad Ingelsby, is the story of two brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) in a hard-luck Pennsylvania town where hope is stillborn. Affleck's Rodney is an emotionally war-torn veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Bale's Russell is the dutiful son who toils in the town's failing steel mill, while loving up on the lovely Lena (Zoe Saldana) and caring for his dying father with his uncle Red (Sam Shepherd) and trying, without much success, to keep his younger brother out of trouble. Rodney, a raging bull of a guy, channels his anger through the local fist-fighting circuit run by a bar owner (Willem Defoe) but Rodney wants to make bigger money and has heard that the action in the New Jersey mountains run by a psychopath named DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) is the way to go. A horrible idea not just because the bloody outcome is inevitable but because it forces the viewer to check any further emotional investment in these miserable people. The acting throughout is fine and the muted autumnal palette is beautiful and fitting, but the pay-off, much like the one young Rodney chases, is elusive. Also stars Forest Whittaker as the local police chief.

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