(US - 2013)
Directed by Scott Cooper. Written by Brad Ingelsby and Scott Cooper. Cast: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Tom Bower, Bingo O'Malley, Dendrie Taylor. (R, 116 mins)
Initially planned as a Ridley Scott film starring Leonardo DiCaprio (both stayed on as producers), OUT OF THE FURNACE is the second effort by CRAZY HEART director Scott Cooper, and it's an ambitious, often very subtle mood piece disguised as a revenge thriller. Set in the mid-2000s to the present day, FURNACE takes place in a small, blue collar Pennsylvania town and Cooper does a marvelous job of conveying that unique atmosphere of a town where smoke and steam are constantly billowing through the air, everyone works at the same mill, drinks at the same bar, and everyone knows everyone. It's the kind of place where time is not exactly frozen, but it seems to be about a decade or two behind. Generation after generation works at the mill, and no one ever really leaves. Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) tries to leave by joining the military and serving multiple tours in Iraq, but he comes back a damaged, broken man. He doesn't want to work at the mill, even though it was good enough for his older brother Russell (Christian Bale) and their dad (Bingo O'Malley sighting!), who's dying of cancer. When playing the ponies only ends up with him deep in debt to local loan shark John Petty (Willem Dafoe), he decides to be Petty's fighter in a bare-knuckle brawling ring. Rodney takes a dive to help settle Petty's debt to Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a snarling, almost demonic meth kingpin and "inbred Jersey" crime lord who's so vicious and dangerous that even the cops--both local and state--are afraid to go after him. Needless to say, things don't go as planned.
another in a string of embarrassing performances by the actor, who at some point apparently forgot how to act.