From the opening scene to the parting shot, "Out of the Furnace" keeps you in its grip. Writer/director Scott Cooper has assembled an incredible cast, all of whom propel this engrossing story to greatness. But, it's Christian Bale's riveting performance that will leave audiences astounded.
Bale plays Russell Baze, a hard-working, good man trying his best to do the right thing. It's not an easy task given the hurdles he must overcome. His brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), suffers from PTSD, his father's terminally ill, and after a four-year stint in prison for a DUI accident, he loses the love of his life (Zoe Saldana).
Upon his release from jail, Russell learns that Rodney has been drawn into the bare-knuckle fighting scene. Unable to hold down a regular job, Rodney ups the stakes by getting involved with a sadistic, above-the-law, meth kingpin named Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). Rodney disappears after a fight, and Russell is forced to seek revenge.
"Out of the Furnace" is about family ties, broken dreams, the scars of war and a deteriorating economy. Set and shot in Braddock, Pa., the struggling steel town is a metaphor for the postindustrial age. It's 2008 and the concept of "hope and change" is wasted on the inhabitants of Braddock. Reality, for them, is harsh, brutal, unfair and unrelenting.
Cooper ("Crazy Heart") tackles the subject matter with gloves off. The cinematography is stunning and severe at the same time. And the score is poignantly perfect. "Out of the Furnace" is not an easy film to watch at times, but it's a brilliantly constructed one.
The performances go beyond any expectations, delivered by actors who give the best of their careers. Woody Harrelson's portrayal of a monster completely devoid of any moral proclivity will haunt your dreams. The mere sight of him on screen is terrifying. Affleck manages to infuse such tragic hopelessness into his performance, we can't help but feel his pain. Willem Dafoe as a bookie with a heart and Sam Shepard as a loving uncle more than complement the gifted cast.
But it's Bale's captivating portrayal of a man trying to be optimistic in a cruel world that will permeate your heart and mind. It's an unforgettable performance. "Out of the Furnace" is a film that goes into the fire, searing our souls with a devastating dose of reality.
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