Out of the Furnace
Christian Bale is at his simmering best in Out of the Furnace, a dark, often scary, and desolate look at two brothers who get dealt numerous bad hands. Directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), this is not a film designed to send you home smiling this holiday season. Russell Baze (Bale) is a good spirited, quiet man working at the town mill, and looking out for his military vet brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck). Rodney is having trouble adjusting after multiple tours in Iraq that have left him physically and emotionally scarred. This makes Russell ultra-patient when it comes to his bro, paying off his gambling debts behind his back to a local bookie (Willem Dafoe, who somehow makes this sleazy character seem like a nice guy). Russell, after a brutal and costly mistake, goes to jail while his brother does another tour. When Russell is set free, he has lost his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), and his brother is in bad shape. Rodney's debts have gotten too big, and he starts bare-knuckle boxing. He eventually finds himself in a situation where he should be taking a dive for a nasty criminal (Woody Harrelson playing one of the year's most memorable and lecherous movie villains). The performances are stellar, with Cooper maintaining a commitment to all things somber that you don't normally see in a late year release. It tells a sad story of two brothers who love each other, the hardships they face, the bad hits they take, and their somewhat regrettable coping choices. It's no party, but it is a showcase for three actors just nailing it.