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Out of the Furnace

Out of the Furnace film posterSynopsis

Russell (Christian Bale) works in a steel mill and is paying off the gambling debt of his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) who is in between Iraq military tours.  Rodney gets into bare knuckle boxing influenced by John (Willem Dafoe).  John is threatened by Harlan (Woody Harrelson).  Harlan is violent towards women and men.  Russell goes stag hunting with his uncle Gerald (Sam Shephard).  Russell causes deaths in a motor accident and is imprisoned losing his partner.  Harlan kills Rodney and goes after John.  Russell seeks revenge…

Review

This is a failure of a film.  It tries very hard to be like The Deer Hunter but falls short.  Russell and Gerald hunt stags just like in The Deer Hunter but we know Russell is really sensitive because he does not like killing animals, although he’s okay about going after people.  Deer hunting seems to have passed the ‘Outstanding Appropriate Symbol test for American Values’, so it is in this film.  Shephard of course plays himself again as he did in Osage and Mud.  He is the reliably macho man of cowboy art and Marlborough Man mysticism.  Shephard’s presence in a film ensures it effortless Mount Rushmore gravitas.  Christian Bale seems determined to play down that irritatingly squeaky schoolboy he played in Empire of the Sun.  This film gives us the most reliable red neck cliches: the decent cop that the good woman lives with, the silent strong guy who becomes a reluctant killer, the cartoonish psycho waiting for his comeuppence (Woody Harrelson also has to live down the good natured guy in Cheers).  There’s the usual inability to resist the drug of gun vigilantism we see in numerous films e.g. Mud.  The film is all steel town tattoo and sawn-off denim orthodoxies, the plot is the stuff of lots of country and western ballads.  Violence and self pity perform their usual ever so slow and self absorbed dance.  The woman is of course the usual voice of decency and conscience, all nurturing and support.  Guess what – she is a primary school teacher.  If she hadn’t been that, she would have been a social worker.  The closest this film gets to thoughtfulness is Russell looking moody on his porch. Casey Affleck’s Rodney (who ever heard of an American soldier called Rodney?) of course says all the right things about the horrors of war as if you have to go to Iraq to work that out.  Like deer hunting, bare knuckle fighting also passed the ‘Outstandingly Appropriate Symbol test for American Values’.  Rodney might regret violence but he’s hoping to knock the lamplight out of his opponents in order to pick up money.  Willem Dafoe plays his often tried rattyman-with-mence.  The confrontation between him and Harlan provides the only real tension.  There are interesting details of a steel town but these are sacrificed as placements for the arthritic familiarities we associate with the industrial proletariat on film.  All these distinguished actors can’t save this film from catastrophe.

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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