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Out of the Furnace (2013)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/12/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/17/2014
There are rednecks everywhere. When you hear the word "redneck", you most likely picture someone from the South, perhaps someone who looks like an extra from The Dukes of Hazzard. However, it's important to remember that every corner of America has rednecks of some kind. People who love pick-ups, shun the law and generally ignore hygiene and common courtesy can be found just about anywhere. How they do things and what they look like can differ slightly, but they are out there. This is something that one must keep in mind while watching Out of the Furnace, a movie which takes a very Southern-looking story to the North.
Out of the Furnace takes place in a dying Pennsylvania steel town. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is employed by the steel mill, where he works with molten steel. He is dating Lena (Zoe Saldana) and wants their relationship to be more serious. Russell's brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) is a soldier who has done multiples tours in Iraq. As if things weren't bad enough, their father is dying. Rodney gets mixed up with John Petty (Willem Dafoe), a small-time crook who organizes bare-knuckle fighting. Russell's world is turned upside-down when a tragic accident lands him in prison. When he is released, he finds that Lena has moved on and that Rodney is more scarred than ever from his time abroad. Feeling that it's his only way to make money, Rodney has Petty take him to Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a very dangerous man who lives in the mountains of New Jersey and has his own fighting game. Sensing that Rodney is in trouble, Russell decides to try and help his brother.
Out of the Furnace comes from Scott Cooper, director of 2009'sCrazy Heart. That film won praise (and Oscars) for Jeff Bridges' performance and the music, deservedly so, but I found the overall film to be predictable and poorly-paced. Cooper hasn't improved in these areas with Out of the Furnace. But, before we get to that, let's talk about the tone of the film. The movie wants to reflect the defeated and hopeless feel of the people of the town, but the result is a movie which is so desperately bleak that the audience eventually becomes numb. Yes, dramas should be serious and this certainly isn't a happy story, but this is one of these films which could really use some levity of some sort. At one point, I felt as if Cooper and Co-writer Brad Ingelsby created of a list of bad things which can happen to a person and then completed the screenplay using it.
This downbeat tone is matched only by the film's pacing, which is like molasses. The movie creeps along, generating very little drama and never digging too deep into the characters. To call the film a "slow burn" would be a wild understatement. We know that something is going to happen at some point, but waiting for it feels like just that -- waiting. No true tension or suspense is created The movie suddenly wants to be a thriller in the last few minutes, but it does nothing to perk up the piece.
The film tells the story of two brothers who are on different courses. Cooper decides that he must beat us over the head with this notion. Thus, we are treated to multiple montages which cut back-and-forth between Rodney and Russell (one would have been bad enough). These are very heavy-handed and it's almost embarrassing how Cooper blatantly portrays the dichotomy between the siblings. We also get a montage which rips off one of the most memorable sequences from The Silence of the Lambs. (When is there going to be a moratorium on movies doing this?)
This must have been a weird situation for Cooper. He's got a movie with a stellar cast (in addition to those mentioned above, we also get Sam Shepard and Foreset Whitaker) and he probably thought that he'd found the perfect follow-up to Crazy Heart. So, the fact that this movie was all but ignored couldn't have been fun. The cast is fine, save for Affleck, who seems out of place in this role, and they are believable, but the story lets them down. Movies like this are never big crowd-pleasers and the fact that Out of the Furnace struggles with story and pacing issues doesn't help. My final thought on this is -- Can we get Christian Bale into a zany comedy?
Out of the Furnace allows Batman to go toe-to-toe with Green Goblin on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The image is never overly dark or bright, and the colors are presented in a somber way -- we get no bright tones here. The level of detail is notably good and the depth is appreciable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and show nice separation. The stereo effects come into play during the fight scenes, as we can hear the crowd in the rear speakers. I didn't note any major subwoofer effects here, save for the sounds of car engines. The in-film music sounds very good.
The Out of the Furnace Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. In "Inspiration" (4 minutes), the cast talk about the actors who inspired them to get into show business. With "Scott Cooper" (7 minutes) talks about his inspirations for the film and discusses his shooting style and his approach to the material. We also hear from the cast who relate what it was like to work with Cooper. Stunt Coordinator Ben Bray takes us through the creation and choreography of the brawls in "Crafting the Fight Scenes" (5 minutes). We also see footage of Casey Affleck training for the role. "The Music of Out of the Furnace" (9 minutes) has Cooper along with Composer Dickon Hinchliffe and Music Supervisor Bob Bowen discussing the score and the songs used in the film. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long