Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Film Review: Out of the Furnace

This was a film I had been interested in when it was in the theater due to its intense trailer and laundry list of good actors and producers.  With Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio as producers and Casey Affleck, Willem DeFoe, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Woody Harrelson and Christian Bale as actors, Out of the Furnance may have been one of the most star laden vehicles in recent memory.

One of the greatest things about the film is how each actor subverts their fame in service of the story.  The story itself is what stands as the backbone of the film.  Out of the Furnace is a fairly straightforward tale of one good brother and one questionable brother wherein the questionable brother falls afoul of some bad people thus necessitating the good brother to take revenge and cross over into a grey area of morality.  What makes it more interesting that your standard fair are the interracial triangle between Bale, Whitaker and Saldana's characters, the dark side given to the "good" brother present in his vehicular homicide displayed on screen and the depiction of white poverty present in the Northeastern US.

Directed by Scott Cooper who has studied under Robert Duval and was the filmmaker behind Crazy Heart and the upcoming Whitey Bulger bio Black Mass, the film is easily viewed as a modern Western, with meth, underground fighting, the Iraq War and ruined mill towns taking the place of cattle rustling, card playing, the Civil War and the far West.  Cooper also seems to have taken on producer Scott's penchant for dark  scenes and sharply shot scenery.  Additionally, Cooper paces the film as Scott might, taking the time to tell the story with fleshed out characters and not pushing the action.

With the truly bad characters in the film based upon the "Ramapo Indians" (more white trash than Indians and not a recognized "tribe" by the Feds at this point) living in and around the Ramapough Mountains in Northeastern New Jersey it merely confirms my view of NJ as a thoroughly detestable state--my in-laws not withstanding.

The film itself opened the same weekend as juggernauts Frozen and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and was almost entirely ignored at that time, it doesn't deserve to be.  Those looking for shootouts and John Woo style action will not care for Out of the Furnace but those enjoying quality work and film noir will.

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