Out of the Furnace
Christian Bale’s fine performance at heart of violent tale set in decaying industrial America
Out of the Furnace, the new film from Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), mixes violent action with some sensitively written (and very well-acted) character drama. Brutal violence pretty much gets the first and last word in this case, but the character of Russell Baze and Christian Bale’s very fine performance in the role are likely to be the things that stay with you after the bloodletting has stopped.
The story revolves around Bale’s character, a steel-mill worker in a decaying Rust Belt town, and his wayward younger brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Iraq war vet (four stints) trying to fast-start his bankroll via gambling and bare-knuckle boxing matches. When Rodney was in Iraq, Russell did a stint in prison (for vehicular homicide) and emerged to find that his beloved (Zoe Soldana) had married the local sheriff (Forest Whitaker).
Later on, a sad-sack bar-owner/gambler/promoter (Willem Dafoe) gets Rodney a high-stakes match in the domain of a terrifying backwoods crime boss (Woody Harrelson) ruling over an “inbred” clan of hillbilly psychopaths. When Dafoe and Affleck fail to return from their venture among the “inbreds,” Russell and his steadfast uncle (Sam Shepard) take action.
Not much good can come from that, but it still counts for something that Russell and his uncle are old-school stalwarts with deep loyalties to the little that’s left of family and friends. Better yet, Russell might be a character out of Dostoevsky—a volatile combination of calm ferocity and an almost mystical gentleness.