Out of the Furnace is a worthwhile film that I have no interest in watching again. With a runtime approaching nearly 2 hours (116 minutes to be exact), it is clear that Out of the Furnace suffers from the current epidemic infecting Hollywood—unnecessarily long movies with uneven pace.

Let me shout it from the mountain top: no movie needs to be 2 fucking hours! A great story can be told in a tight hour and a half or 100 minutes at the most. Even a captivating classic can be sculpted into something better in less time. I don’t expect it from established filmmakers—Martin Scorsese can take a shit on camera—but director Scott Cooper is not among those who can be forgiven for a long, drawn-out movie.

Out of the Furnace opens with the first 5 minutes establishing how ruthless, cruel, and fucking batshit crazy Woody Harrelson is as Harlan DeGroat. I would hate to cut that introduction of Harlan because he’s the best character with the best performance in the movie, and the scene is darkly funny since Harlan shoves a hotdog down his date’s throat (Dendrie Taylor) at a drive-in movie before mercilessly beating a Good Samaritan nearly to death. But it is an odd window from which the audience first views Out of the Furnace.

Brotherly Love

After the title card, the second introduction focuses on Christian Bale as Russell Baze—featuring “Release” from Pearl Jam while Russell is going through his day at the local steel mill. Russell then drives to the OTB to see his brother Rodney Jr. (played by Casey Affleck) betting the ponies and predictably losing.

And these are our major players in Out of the Furnace.

Woody Harrelson is predictably phenomenal playing evil, and Harlan is another great character to add to his resume. In fact, I wish Out of the Furnace spent a little more time letting this character breathe because Woody outshined both Bale and Affleck. Christian Bale is still good in the role of a simple steel worker who takes responsibility for his actions while Casey Affleck is equally up to the task of a returning war vet that’s too fucked up to function in normal life—or at least have the desire to do so, coupled with his PTSD.

Casey Affleck

While the performances are up to par across the board, the characters just aren’t anything extraordinary—unless you’re talking about extraordinarily bleak. These bleak characters match the bleak landscape of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Both Baze brothers have shitty lives of comparable proportions. Russell (Christian Bale) has resigned himself to working the same dead-end job at the mill that’s killing his dad. Rodney Jr. (Casey Affleck) has accepted that the man who returned from war is not the same one who left, and his gambling and the resulting debt is the impetus of the movie. With his brother constantly looking for quick money, Russell assumes part of that increasing debt and even starts paying off John Petty (played by Willem Dafoe). Willem Dafoe is unusually reserved and delightful with limited screen time.

Despite these great performances, the characters played by Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard seem superfluous with wasted time and attention away from the major players. I’m trying to talk myself into an extra half-star for this movie as I’m typing, but the focus waned too much between memorable moments. I wouldn’t characterize Out of the Furnace’s direction aimless, but it is fractured.

With about 45 minutes slashed from the initial hour and 15 minutes, Out of the Furnace could have added more emotion into the storyline of Rodney Jr.’s struggle and about 10 more minutes of insane evil from Harlan. As a result, there’s even more time to build up to the climax with more intensity. What’s frustrating about Out of the Furnace is that there are memorable scenes and characters that are unfortunately muddled by unnecessary moments—drowning out the focus in this drawn-out movie.


3 out of 5 stars


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