Christian Bale plays Russell Baze, who at the start of the film is involved in an auto collision that kills the other driver and her son. He serves a prison sentence for an undisclosed period of time, visited only by his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), and upon release must contend with the ideas that his sickly father had died while he was incarcerated and that Rodney has become a street fighter.
Out of the Furnace is a film that focuses on the bad life choices that Rodney makes, which lead to his untimely, early death. And then it follows Russell as he wants to exact revenge. The film is slow in the “police procedural” department- actually it’s virtually non-existent; and it’s slow in getting to the final confrontation between Russell and Rodney’s murderer.
There is a whole lot of nothing that transpires during the 116 minute runtime. The passage of time, in the film, is non-existent, and not much happens on the character department side. The principal characters that are introduced at the start of the film remain the same by the end. No one learns any lessons and the pacing of the film is equivalent to that of molasses.
It’s a shame to know that this film was written and directed by Scott Cooper, whose previous film was Crazy Heart (2009); a truly excellent film. There, we had a realistic portrayal of the long-term effects of alcoholism, and a man who simply won’t give up on life. In Out of the Furnace, we have a man who has no goal in life and who eventually, simply wants to avenge his brother’s death. There is no payoff, no catharsis. Just by-the-book, predictable stuff that happens and that takes forever to happen.
This isn’t even a missed opportunity. There’s literally nothing here to offer the audience beyond the performances. Christian Bale is fine, albeit too restrained; Casey Affleck gives a stand-out performance, but is criminally underused; and Woody Harrelson is also in the film, playing a despicable redneck. He’s very good at that.
Out of the Furnace is too slow moving, generally uneventful and predictable, and doesn’t know when to make certain scenes shorter or to simply cut them out. I don’t even recommend this film as rental because I’d watched it in the comfort of my own home and was fidgeting in my seat. I’m all up for long films- Lawrence of Arabia is my favourite film, after all. But not long, empty films like this. Not like this.
2 stars (out of 4)