Blu-ray Review “Out of the Furnace”

Actors: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe
Director: Scott Cooper
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: March 11, 2014
Run Time: 116 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Christian Bale going back to the early days of “Newsies” and “Swing Kids”, but I did not see this film coming. It was completetly out of my radar when it was released and from its reception out of everyone elses as well it seemed. The film is directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”), whom I respect very much. It also features an all-star cast including Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. There is no shortage of talent. Still though the film just didn’t blow me away. The drama was there and the acting was great but I just felt like it was just going through the motions, never really grabbed me. For fans of the cast (and director) it will be worth checking out but I call this a one-timer and in five years I will have completely forgot about it.

Official Premise: From Scott Cooper, the critically acclaimed writer and director of Crazy Heart, comes a gripping and powerful drama about family, fate, circumstance and justice. Russell Baze (Oscarr Winner Christian Bale) leads a dead-end life – he works a meaningless steel mill job all day, and cares for his terminally ill father at night. When Russell’s brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from Iraq, he is lured into one of the Northeast’s most ruthless crime rings and mysteriously disappears. When the police fail to solve the case, Russell puts his life at risk in order to seek justice for his brother.

Fox delivered the film on Blu-ray with a combo pack including an HD Digital Ultraviolet copy. This is becoming the trend with pretty much any film Fox is releasing latetly and I really dig that. The 1080p transfer is quite solid. I liked the way the film was shot and it was nicely framed. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track worked well with the dialogue and Dickson Hinchliffe’s score. The special features are decent and contain four featurettes. “Inspiration” looks into the story behind the film behind made. “Scott Cooper” focuses on the film’s director. “Crafting the Fight Scenes” is a breakdown of a few of the films climatic moments. Lastly “The Music of Out of the Furnace” talks with composer Hinchliffe about his score.

Film Review “Out of the Furnace”

Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 56 mins
Relativity Media

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Take a group of talented actors, add an unbelievable script and a sophomore director and what do you get?

In a blue collar town located somewhere in Pennsylvania, the Baze brothers go about their business. Older brother Russell (Bale) works at the local steel mill, trying to make a good life for himself and his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana). He also works a lot of overtime to help pay the debts of his troubled younger brother, Rodney (Affleck). A victim of the U.S. Army’s “stop-loss” policy, Rodney is about to head back to Iraq for his fourth tour. An unfortunate accident lands Russell in prison. When he comes home he finds his girlfriend has moved on, his father has died and that Rodney has been trying to earn money by engaging in underground bare knuckle fights. When Rodney disappears one night, Russell takes it upon himself to find him.

I just summarized the film in nine sentences. Sadly, to get to the main points of the story director Cooper and his co-writer, Brad Ingelsby, have created so many unnecessary and incredulous scenes that, despite a top notch cast, you really don’t care what happens to any of them. Woody Harrelson is a bad ass. How do we know that? Because when we meet him he’s forcing a hot dog down a woman’s throat at the drive in. Why is Russell in jail? Because after having ONE DRINK he is involved in an auto accident with a car that backed into the street with no lights on, killing a young boy who was neither buckled in or in a safety seat. Yet it’s his fault? But if you don’t put Russell in prison you can’t see that he’s also a bad ass, kicking the butts of two cons that hassle him one day, apparently for no other reason than to see that Russell is tough. There is no exposition or explanation of time. One day Rodney is in his fatigues, the next he has a full beard.

If I haven’t scared you off yet, let me take this time to praise a cast that does an admirable job considering the material they were given. Bale continues to grow and change as an actor, leaving Bruce Wayne behind to take some incredibly interesting supporting roles. Affleck is very good as a young man whose many tours on the battlefield are starting to affect him. As the drug selling, fight fixing Harlan DeGroat, Harrelson is positively frightening. Add to the mix such talents as Sam Sheppard, Forrest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe, and you’ll realize that every actor I’ve mentioned in this paragraph are Oscar nominees who deserve better than an under-cooked screenplay. They should throw this one back into the furnace!