Out Of The Furnace has all the tenants for a seemingly great movie. A terrific writer/director in Scott Cooper, he of Crazy Heart semi-fame, fantastic actors in Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson, and a few threads of an interesting conceit, but unfortunately none of it really gets sparked. It’s disappointing that all this talent went into making just a pretty mediocre film. I mean for the calibre of participants it’s greatly lacking in what you leave with and just an overall misfire. It’s not even schizophrenic with it’s quality, vaulting from bad to good, but rather it’s just two hours of average work, which is almost worse than a varying quality from scene-to-scene.
The actors are really the main things that jump out to you about how great this should be. Granted, Bale, Affleck and Harrelson are all really good, but nothing mind-blowing, career-defining or like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Christian Bale has this tendency to amaze you and one-up every last performance he’s done, unfortunately this film halts the transgression. Casey Affleck, one of the most underrated great actors working today, is good as well, he’s troubled and down-on-his-luck and all those characteristics of this type of character you’ve seen before, but he’s still missing a gear or so. Harrelson is as good as he’s always been over his whole career, but he’s just so cartoony and off-putting that he throws the film off a bit in his villainy, and seems like he wondered onto the wrong set.
Now, I could live with those performances, because, yes, they’re all very good and way better than your average actors, if not the great levels normally held by them. But, unfortunately there was no worthwhile story at all to try and boast these performances up. These were interesting characters, with Bale and Affleck playing brothers, Bale the stoic worker, supporting his family and trying to live an honest life. Compared with Affleck, the younger troubled brother, in debts, in the army, and having to resort to bare-knuckling fighting to try and scrape some money together. It’s a good dynamic and Bale/Affleck have some good chemistry together, but the story squanders everything. Without spoiling stuff, Affleck gets embroiled in debts and such with Harrelson’s character of the villainous redneck fighting “promoter,” as Bale eventually finds himself into a seedier world where he has to help save his brother. It’s such a stupid and fluffy plot that seems better out of some direct-to-DVD movie, and something so much lower and boring. I was hoping we’d get some like in-depth character drama/study that actually took itself seriously, and maybe tried to explore issues with the army, PTSD, brothers, relationships, or whatever. But, instead we got a kinda dumb, actiony revenge flick, which isn’t really what I signed on for.
I mean, for what it is, it’s not a bad film at all, it’s just that with all these compounding elements of actors, director and such, a so much better film was expected and never delivered. Really one of the only saving graces was Scott Cooper deciding to bookend the film with Pearl Jam’s “Release,” one of my favourite songs of all time, set to a montage. But, even with the song, it’s so maddeningly on the nose that I should hate the song selection for being so dumb and obvious, if I didn’t love it so much. Out Of The Furnace, you disappointed me, release me.