Review: Out of the Furnace (2013)

out of the furnace poster

“I’ve got a problem with everybody.”
– Harlan DeGroat

Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is a hardworking man. He is a blue-collar worker at the local mill and lucky to have a job seeing as he lives in the economically depressed Rust Belt. His younger brother Rodney Jr (Casey Affleck) is a military man with a gambling problem and in with some criminal types but not necessarily bad people for some money. Going to settle his brother’s debt with John Petty (Willem Dafoe) one night, his whole life is changed. Going home to his girlfriend Lena Warren (Zoë Saldana) he is in an accident that is not even remotely his fault but sentenced to prison. Leaving his younger brother and dying father behind, Russell begins his incarceration.

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“Working for a living? I gave my life for this country and what’s it done for me? Huh? What’s it done for me?” – Rodney Baze Jr

While in prison, his father passes away, and Russell is wracked with even more guilt over his passing and not having been there. Upon his release, Rodney takes Russell to his father’s grave and then to their home. Russell slowly but surely starts sinking back into the old ways of his sad life, though he is upset that Lena has moved on and is now seeing police offices Wesley Barnes (Forest Whitaker). Rodney is not working and is finished serving his country, fighting for Petty to settle his debt. Russell discovers this one day and confronts his brother, again offering that Rodney come work at the mills and that he should not be too proud to work for a living. In a rage, Rodney goes to Petty, forcing his hand to set up a fight for him with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a disgraceful redneck with a drug and anger problem. Petty is not keen on the idea, but Rodney’s vehemence eventually gets the upper hand and he arranges.

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“Now, will you calm down. I’ll get you the money, Harlan. I’m fixin’ for a fight this week.” – John Petty

Rodney is told to throw the fight, but has a tendency to forget that policy in the heat of the moment. Petty continually warns Rodney that DeGroat is not worth screwing over, and in the ring it looks as though Rodney is set to win, and Petty has to make sure that Rodney loses, which he progresses to do. However, on the way home from the fight, DeGroat catches up to them and kills them both. Russell is informed by Barnes of the transgression, though he says Rodney may still be out there and that Russell should leave it to the police to work out. Russell and his uncle Gerald “Red” Baze (Sam Shepard) set out together with a plan – justice will be exacted for Rodney. Either they will find Rodney in DeGroat’s county, or they will make him pay for what he has done.

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When your future relies on the decision you are faced with

Russell must make a decision about avenging his brother and throwing away his freedom and average, hardworking life, or he must let the police sort it out, though they have made it clear that they don’t really want to get involved with DeGroat. Will Russell be able to let DeGroat get away with the murder of his baby brother? Will Russell ever be able to live a normal life and stop suffering unreasonable hardships all the time?

A 7.5/10 for Out of the Furnace. I was hooked from the get-go. The film boasts a pretty solid cast and they all bring brilliant performances to the table and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Woody Harrelson but wow he was so reprehensible in this one. Christian Bale delivered a great performance of the hardworking and very caring brother. It was great to see Casey Affleck again, and he played the little military man gone wrong very well. I was not particularly sold on Forest Whitaker in here, either his skills or his character, it just didn’t work completely. I enjoyed the plot of this film as well as the progression. I loved the camera work and effects; it looked so great, like washed out. The soundtrack worked perfectly, and the pace was so good for what it was. The conclusion of the film had me at the edge of my seat, not because it was unexpected, but because it was pretty moving. The film’s pace is slow and deliberate and worked perfectly for this film. This is a film not everyone, definitely nothing new or revolutionary and goodness knows it has its flaws, but I enjoyed it and would recommend it, if not for the performances alone.

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33 thoughts on “Review: Out of the Furnace (2013)

  1. Tom says:

    Out of the Furnace was one of my favorites from last fall because it was so damn atmospheric and moody. I LOVED it, and yes it has a lot of flaws but I, like you, was able to see past them and to the great performances on display. I agree with that about Harrelson, too — what an asshole he was in this. Incredibly intimidating and just. . . terrible. Ditto my feelings as well to Whitaker’s officer Barnes; I just thought he was very underused and could have been played by someone else easily. Overall though, this movie was uplifting and heartbreaking, and I thought it was powerful in that way.

    Fantastic review as always Zoe

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    • Zoë says:

      YAY! Someone who is with me on it! It was just well acted and I was taken with the story and how it all went along. Yuck, Harrelson really grossed me out in here, so kudos to him for having the ability to do it all! Whitaker could easily have been replaced, but there was just something that really, really didn’t work, and his accent was wonky at the best of times!

      Thanks a lot Tom, glad to see we agree wholeheartedly on this one, it was an incredibly engaging watch and I am so happy to have finally gotten to it, it was well worth it!

      Like

    • Zoë says:

      Thanks Chris! I really liked it, despite the gripes that some people had, I thought it all worked out rather well and was captivating from the off. Can’t wait to hear what you think about it!

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  2. movierob says:

    Hey Zoe,

    Great review.

    I enjoyed this movie too. I found the first half a bit slow, but the second half made up for that.

    I liked Bale much more here than in American Hustle (2013)

    Like

  3. thycriticman says:

    Glad you liked it! It did not get much exposure for whatever reason, but had a great cast and a more realistic plot than your typical action drama. Woody was terrific in his villain role….

    Like

    • Zoë says:

      He really played the character well, and I thought this was a particularly solid movie though it seems to have gotten a lot of crap from people, I found it to be very interesting and well presented and it had a great cast!

      Like

    • Zoë says:

      Thanks! It is such a pity because it is a good film and it is so underground and quiet and all that. American Hustle was good, but this really deserves some recognition!

      Like

    • Zoë says:

      I really was. I read a few things that indicated it was a bit of a let down, but I thought it was brilliant. Definitely worth looking into, would love to hear your take on it!

      Like

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