Out of the Furnace – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Out of the FurnaceOut of the Furnace – 3/5 – Drama films; they are a dime a dozen.  Majority of the films released have some sort of dramatization of life, fantasy, or some aspect of a genre.  Regardless of what the film is about, the core function of it is to have a dramatic appeal.  For this film, it is a diehard grinder of a real life scenario, dramatized for the effect on the big screen.  Even with some lack of focus of the direction, the realism of the situation and some great acting from some big name actors (Bale, Harrelson and Affleck) you will be entertained throughout the film.

Premise: Russell and his younger brother, Rodney, try to live their life as strong as they can, always looking to better themselves in a depressed blue collar town.  Even as he does the right things, Russell is still a prisoner of fate, as his world becomes to crumbling down.  Choices will need to be made, and even when things seem right, there is always life to hold Russell back from that ultimate peace.

In the main role of Russell Baze is Christian Bale.  In this role, like every other role he plays, he gives a 100 percent, creating the best character he can for the film.  As Russell Baze, he creates an individual who is a good person at heart.  He does all the right things, goes to work like everyone, but comes across certain situations that bring his world crumbling down around him.  Here is where the acting shines for Bale because even for the trouble times, he creates someone who handles the burden as humbly as a normal person, staying strong in his steady fast mentality, and dealing with it by doing his normal business; working at the local Steel Mill and supporting his friends and family from afar.  With that grounded mentality, his emotions are left in the open, as his facial expressions and reactions to certain decisions of people in his life gives a raw appeal of a man who is breaking a little each time.  This depth of humbleness and love at fault combined with his interactions helps create a character that is vigorous, raw and pristine as a reflection of the common man.  This helps create a bond with the audience, which helps you feel something towards his decisions he makes that will affect the rest of his life.  Opposite Bale in this film you have a few notable names.  You have the brother Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck), Lover Lena Taylor (Zoe Saldana), Uncle Gerald (Sam Shepard), Bar Owner John Petty (Willem Dafoe), Chief Wesley Barnes (Forest Whitaker) and Degroat’s Date (Woody Harrelson).  All these actors and actresses do a wonderful job in adding to the flavor of ‘realism’ in following Bale’s lead, creating characters caught in that web of the same hardship as him.  They also add depth to their roles, creating vivid characters that you will either love or hate.  When it comes to loving a character, one in particular that is a standout is Casey Affleck’s Rodney Baze.  In 0eing the brother to Russell, his interactions are endearing; which always a strong believability factor as them being actual brothers.  There dialogue is reflect of an actual interaction as siblings, giving you that typical ‘brotherly love’.  This closeness is one of the strongest points, felt throughout the film.  When it comes to a strong hate towards certain characters, this is strongly indicated by Woody Harrelson’s character, Degroat’s Date.  His acting is put on display here, as he creates a vile, disgusting individual.  Harrelson exudes an arrogance that’s both bothersome and scary.  When he is on screen, it is some of the most heart pounding moments of the film, as his unpredictable nature will keep you guessing if he is going to hurt or kill anyone he comes across.  The rest of the supporting cast not mentioned above do a good job in adding to that ‘real-life’ scenario aspect of the film.  These others in the film do enough to stand out with a ‘crowd’ kind of color instead of just being generic plot devices.

Outside of the great acting on display, the direction and story development of this film is the weakest part.  When it comes to the overall atmopshere of the film, it lacks any focus.  In lacking focuses, you get no central narrative, as situations in the film just occur, and you have this kind of ‘reality TV’ feel, where it is all reliance on reaction from the characters to those situations that occur.  From the totality of the film, it has that ‘real-life’ theme encompassing, but beyond providing a theme for the players to play in, there is no true cohesion to direct them through.  With no cohesion between those ‘specific’ moments, you’re left with a bland tone for majority of the film where the following repeats itself constantly in the first two acts of the film:

Glimpse into Russell living (either working or doing errands)

Russell gets into a ‘worst-case scenario’ situation

Consequences unfold for Russell

Exposition about life

Glimpse into Russell living again

The film does this repeatedly through the first 2/3rds of the film.  In a dramatic film, these ‘moments’ should be heartfelt or endearing, but because we are left with bland directive, you just have a general reaction.  You get the feeling that the tone is of a darker aspect of life’s turmoil, but it never brings these situations together to create an effective tone.  All you feel (over and over) is the ‘life is hard’ situation but with no effective punch towards the audience.  You’re left to just watch the crumbling of Russell’s life.  What keeps the film worth watching is the characterization of Russell, Rodney and their brotherly love.  This small thread helps create some kind of fervor and connection between the first two acts.   That brotherly love helps Russell keep going steadfast through the first part of the film, but it doesn’t stick for too long for Rodney.  Because of the consequences of his brother and his general life, he makes a decision to get involved with Degroat’s fighting ring.  When this happens, another repeat of a ‘worst case’ scenario happens, and Russell has to pick up the pieces and try to deal with it, with the obvious exposition of life and his stead fast mentality.  At this point, the film becomes to turn and start to centralize a narrative, causing you to start to see that ‘drama’ unfold emotionally, exuding some real situations that are endearing, raw and in your face.   Once the film gets to the third act, the film turns produce a narrative that has a ‘revenge’ theme.  The emotional tones combine with this new riveting directive of revenge, creating a very heart pounding ‘life changing’ moment.  Once the film gets to its climax, there is a great exposition created through an interaction between Bale and Harrelson’s characters.  Once the film ends, there is some closure, but it is still a dire situation for Russell Baze.

The cinematography is another great aspect of the film.  In the visuals, there is a creation of that ‘real-life’ appeal, as we get a raw look at the common living situations of a blue-collar town in Pennsylvania.  With the use of ‘landscape’ camera work and grainy textures, you have a strong vivid sensation when it comes to feeling the area that the characters live in.  The score is only strong in the beginning and end of the film, as it is kept silent during the duration of this film.

Overall, Out of the Furnace is a film that has a great display of acting from Bale, Affleck and Harrelson.  Outside of the acting, the rest of the film is disjointed to say the least.  The narrative is lacking focus for majority of the runtime, causing a bland effectiveness where the film should be dire and deep.  If you’re fan of the actors involved, I will go out to watch it in theaters.  It is a film worth watching, but it isn’t that will be memorable.

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