Out of the Furnace

By: Addison WylieOOTFposter

Why is it that Out of the Furnace has so many accomplishments going for it, yet it’s an impossible recommendation?  Telling someone to watch Out of the Furnace would be like telling someone to hold a bunch of wild snakes and assuring them they won’t get bit.

Scott Cooper’s thriller is one of those movies you appreciate a few hours after having watched it.  Viewing Out of the Furnace for the first time is a miserable experience.  At a first glance, the movie does nothing but pile disheartening characters and situations on the audience in order to cloy unceasing agitation from movie goers.  It just gets worse and worse, and all Cooper wants is for his audience to channel that heaviness.

The film, however, has resonance.  You’ll certainly have trouble trying to shake it.  These afterthoughts work in Cooper’s favour because it allows movie goers to really break the film down.

Russell (played by Christian Bale) is constantly having to bail his addicted brother Rodney (played by Casey Affleck) out of debt.  Rodney, who has a fixation for illegal fighting, is assigned matches by John Petty (played by Willem Dafoe).  But, even Petty warns Rodney of the dangerous conditions that take place in “the hills”.  There, the thuggish community is corrupt, vicious, and violently relentless when it comes to hand-to-hand combat and repaying dues.  These cautionary tales don’t stop Rodney from rolling the dice.

After the movie, one starts to think about the performances and how committed each cast member was to the material written by Cooper and Brad Ingelsby.  The brotherhood and companionship between Bale and Affleck is unbreakable.  Even though audiences may have seen similar scenes in other movies where one brother helps their kin out of a deathly hole, the portrayals by these two superb actors feel new and are very believable in their own ways.

The supporting cast is rounded out well without a dropped beat.  Actors like Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, and Dafoe may grace the screen quickly, but their importance is backed up by coarse and sturdy acting.

Woody Harrelson plays the lead baddie in “the hills”, and his presence is scary.  His deliveries excessively get to be too mumbled or snarly, but that ambiguity behind his heinous personality makes him more of a gnarly mystery.

However, it’s tough not to hold in a smirk when other characters have to keep asking him to repeat himself.  Those responses are written in to express that others can’t believe what Harrelson is saying.  Instead, they come across more as if people are questioning why Harrelson stuffed a bunch of marbles in his mouth.

The realism in the environments is also chillingly true.  The featured borough, North Braddock, feels very dirty but never makes it look filthily seething.  It’s a development that is dependent on its steel mill, and the background activity shows that while this is an all-American township, it’s in a world of its own.

Cooper’s direction towards his actors feels right because he’s been able to get high-quality performances, and the potent screenplay has lots of great dialogue.  It does, however, feel like Cooper can’t see eye-to-eye with his co-written script.

Out of the Furnace is supposed to be a character driven piece featuring a variety of all walks.  But, Cooper directs the film as though it’s supposed to have a direct narrative.  In another film, there’d be nothing wrong with how Cooper wants to lead his audience.  But, because a film of this caliber needs a looser structure, the miscommunication effects the overall cohesiveness of the film.  Which, in the end, makes all these superb components have trouble meshing together.

Because the film itself is rocky with its presentation, it makes movie goers search harder for something to cling to.  That said, when everything is so disturbing and hopeless, the audience’s interest wavers dramatically.

Scott Cooper’s movie is an aberrant one.  It’s not an easy movie to endure, but strangely enough, is somewhat rewarding once your spirits regain consciousness.

Out of the Furnace is not a crappy movie.  It’s a very well made film with sweltering tension and outstanding performances, which in turn makes you feel crappy.

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