If a cruel twist of fate landed you in prison and your family resorted to extreme measures just to get by, would you risk everything to fix what had been broken, no matter the cost?
That is exactly what Russell Baze (Christian Bale) has to decide in Out Of the Furnace, a gripping thriller from epic director Ridley Scott. He and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) have never led brilliant lives, but they’ve always had enough to get by. But when Rodney starts borrowing money from John Petty (Willem Dafoe) he can’t keep up repayments, so turns to street boxing in order to fix fights and win Petty his money back. However, when Rodney gets ahead of himself and goes to fight in one of the most violent crime rings in the Northeast, he ends up in a world he can find no way out of, and it’s down to big brother Russell to take care of him.
Immediately, the first thing about this film that grabs you is the stellar cast. Bale and Affleck are supported by the likes of Woody Harrelson (who, can I just say, acts his socks off), Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. You just know that if the film is on par with its all-star line-up, you are in for one hell of a ride. And it does not disappoint! Right from the beginning, you are immersed in the bond between the brothers, and you cannot help but find yourself rooting for the pair to come out on top in the hard life they’ve had to live.
However, what becomes apparent as you watch is the intricate storyline that you find yourself incapable of pulling away from. Massive plot twists also inject fresh pathways for the story to take, so you can never be sure of what could be around the corner for any of the characters.
The performances from each and every actor in this film are sublime. Bale and Affleck put on absolutely stunning shows as the struggling brothers, and Bale in particular portrays the character of a man caught between a rock and a hard place tremendously. Affleck as troubled Rodney is very moving at times, but he shines most in a confrontational scene opposite Bale, where we can see the deep-running scars from his past. Contrary to the vast majority of opinions that these two actors are the stars of Out Of the Furnace, I strongly believe that Woody Harrelson as Harlan DeGroat should’ve received Academy recognition for his portrayal of the hillbilly gangster. At certain points in the film, Harrelson’s character could turn on a sixpence, as though someone had flicked a switch to go from a fairly reasonable guy to a drug crazed maniac, reminiscent of Joe Pesci’s performance in Goodfellas which won him Best Supporting Actor.
Director Ridley Scott has pieced together a superb thriller in a series of fantastic locations. Camera work fabulously captures the emotions of characters and the atmosphere of the story, allowing you to lose yourself in the film.
Basically, I think it’s fair to say you can’t go wrong with this intense, gripping film about brotherhood and bonds that will tie no matter what happens. It has everything going for it: a fabulous story and an amazing cast, all put together by a very commendable director. Out Of the Furnace is an absolute must-see, but be warned – you will not be able to tear yourself away from start to finish.
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