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Out Of The Furnace




Released: 2014

Directed By: Scott Cooper

Starring: Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana

Certificate: 15

Reviewed By: Robbie Cooper (

Russell Baze is struggling to make ends meat while also trying to take care of his ailing father and reckless veteran brother who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder from his tours in Iraq.

You are immediately faced with the paint-peeling working-class rust-colored backdrop of North Braddock Pennsylvania. The obvious sense of blue-collar gloom is evident throughout the picture, as if everyone in the film is connected to the steel mill in one way or another and worried that it can close it’s doors and put set off a domino-effect of depression. Bale brings more of a restrained energy to his Russell character. Instead of a salient effect to his voice there are traces of a Pittsburgh(ish) accent that glints from his marble mouth here and there. Bale’s character Russell is most certainly connected to the mill, where you see him grueling over fire pits covered in grime. He draws an immediate sense of sympathy for his character when you see how he looks out for those close to him and how hard he works to do so. You get a sense that there is inescapable hardship for him, as if he can never leave the doomed industrial town he’s certainly residing in. He’s loyal to his family. He sees the damage that the war caused on his brother Rodney has endured both physically and psychologically and rather than continue to press him on it, he quietly tries to assist him however he can (most of the time being financially). Most of the time it’s just by being loyal to him. But there’s an obvious sense of protection that he feels for him, as if its a promise he made to his father. But more than likely it’s a promise he has made to himself. Although his character is a man with mistakes, he is willing to pay his debts to society and attempt to right his wrongs. He carries his guilt like it’s a ten pound weight strapped to his soul. And even with the unforgivable things he may have done, he has a sense of warm loyalty and Bale manages to keep you engaged in his Russell character and stay on his side. While Rodney takes his hits on the face, Russell takes them to the heart.

Cooper succeeds in developing nuanced characters rather thoroughly than just making a action-packed revenge piece after a character gets wiped out in the first twenty minutes. In one sense it’s a story about a man’s misfortune, but there are many other forces at work and every actor involved in the film really contributes a multi-layered performance. It’s a heavily masculine piece as well. There is an overt lack of estrogen flowing, as you only see one or two female characters. We finally get another taste of Woody Harrelson working on the dark side. He never disappoints as a villain, and his Harlan DeGroat character is something right out of the evil forces his character attempts to track down in HBO’s True Detective. Out of the Furnace is pure drama, providing us with the lasting image of a strained man mired in the melodrama of personal conflicts in a struggling city.

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