Woody Harrelson as Harlan DeGroat might not be as frightening as Hannibal Lecter, but in this strange cross between Alpha Dog meets Deliverance meets Fight Club, the viewer gets taken down a dark and mostly unwanted path of outrageous violence, death and negativity that oozes off the screen in a fashion that would make Darth Vader…or Dick Cheney… envious.
Harrelson, William Dafoe, Christian Bale and company all look beaten up and ragged while the pretty people, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana, flow down the whirlpool of ugliness during the 116 minutes director Scott Cooper takes to put the audience through the meat grinder. Out of the furnace? More like into the pit and the pendulum.
Movies can be anything the producers and director(s) want them to be, but the bottom line for this critic is the entertainment factor. The Rolling Stones Sweet Summer Sun – Hyde Park Live, another film I’m reviewing at the moment – succeeds because with the avalanche of Stones films currently hitting the market, this one speaks volumes and has “the magic.” The aforementioned Fight Club was good for one spin and I’ve never gone back. Director Tom Holland’s 1996 travesty, taken from Stephen King – Thinner – was also an uncomfortable mess that makes Santa Claus vs. the Devil look appealing by comparison. The big difference here is the terrific acting and solid craftsmanship that went into such a morbid and lugubrious script. Like, what’s the point? Christian Bale might believe that he was stretching his thespian abilities with this gritty performance, but if you think about it, his character – Russel Blaze – is a poverty-stricken Bruce Wayne in another setting – all the rage and anger and hard luck (in Wayne’s case, hard luck with the luxury of lots of cash) not finding a way out of the prism.
Bale is great, but he didn’t have to go far to find the conflicted personality after playing a similar role doing his trampoline routine out of the cave in The Dark Knight Rises. Harrelson has made a cottage industry of whacko characters, so his casting call was academic. Meanwhile William Dafoe’s underworld gutter-dweller is exactly the classless, vile, miserable wretch that he should have injected into Normon Osborn in the Spiderman series.
The one redeeming diamond in the rough this film uncovers: Casey Affleck’s skillful ability to roll with the various sequences his character has to tumble over and through. Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace is Eraserhead in the deep forests of Appalachia, and not the prettier side of that national treasure.
Out of the Furnace – Official Trailer (HD) Christian Bale
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.