IMDB Score – 6.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 52%
Starring – Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whittaker, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard
Directed By – Scott Cooper
When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn’t follow through fast enough, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.
Today I sat down to watch on of the most anticipated films of last year that ended up being one of the most disappointing films according to critics. Written and directed by the man that gave us the bleak and heartbreaking “Crazy Heart”, “Out of the Furnace” stars Christian Bale as a blue collar working Pennsylvania man trying to do right by his family. Scott Cooper is a talented filmmaker. I really ended up enjoying “Crazy Heart” when I sat down to watch it a year or two ago and was pretty excited when I heard of this film coming out. The cast he put together is pretty incredible as we have the majority bring Oscar nominees and two of them being winners in Bale and Whittaker. Reading about the film before hand led me to learn that some of the film takes place in the Ramapo hills that blanket northern New Jersey. Being that I’m from these exact hills, it made me even more interested. I do however need to get something off my chest…
While not a negative on the film, the portrayal of the “Jackson Whites” that live in this area of New Jersey is pretty insane. I have personally worked with and around these people for years and have never felt in danger, ever. Are there some bad eggs? Are there bad eggs in every culture and town? I rest my case. I just wanted to point that out seeing as I have first hand experience of what living in that area, up until last month that is, was like. Back to the film…
I ended up really enjoying the movie. I did have problems but for the most part it was a gorgeously shot character study (for the most part) that only really fell apart near the end. As a writer, I know how hard it is to carry out a great idea until the finish. I’ve always had trouble ending papers and stories with a nice bow so I’m more lenient on things that can’t hold it together the whole way through. Would it have been better? Sure, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what led up to the disappointing ending which took place in the film. For one, the acting in the film is pretty stellar. I won’t call it my favorite but Christian Bale put on one hell of a performance. There is a scene in the film with Zoe Saldana on a bridge that is one of the most heartbreaking scenes and bits of acting I’ve seen in the last year or two. Casey Affleck just continues putting everything into his roles and he’s becoming one of my favorite supporting actors. I don’t know if he’s ready for a leading role but the kid is a dynamic actor who keeps impressing me in the films he’s in. Harrelson plays a despicable villain very well and Willem Dafoe is just amazing in everything he does. The only real problem with the cast I had was with Forrest Whittaker who continues to be as inconsistent as ever. His great roles are amazing and everything else, including this, is just horrible. I don’t know what kind of accent he was going for but it just came off silly and really took me out of the film whenever he was on, which lucky for me was very little.
I think people had a problem with this film due to it’s very bleak and weak script. I can understand that. American movie watchers like to have everything spelled out for them. I just so happen to fall into teh group that can do with a little ambiguity. In teh beginning of the film Christian Bale gets into a car accident and the next scene he is in jail. I can see why this may seem bad because we weren’t told what happened but honestly, can people not figure that out? There were specific shots before the accident that are HUGE clues as to why he is in jail. The ending shot also follows this technique of letting the viewers figure it out for themselves. It wasn’t eve that difficult. People who complained about the weak script just are too lazy to do any thinking. The script had problems, but that wasn’t it. The ending is what kept this film from being great.
The first half of the film was a brilliant character study on blue collar America, getting tossed shitty cards, and trying to keep the ones you love close to you. The second half was a revenge thriller that didn’t come off cheesy but rather just unearned. I didn’t see the need to go down that path and the final encounter between hero and villain was just way to predictable. The film just ran out of steam.
I’m not going to damn a film because of a bad ending. I enjoyed the film. It’s bleak. It’s not very uplifting. Forrest Whittaker has a shit accent. Yet, it is a beautifully shot film with great performances and a first half that is up there with the best of last year. It’s a solid rental.
Recommended Viewing – Snatch, The Hunter, A Single Shot, The Deer Hunter