Film Review : Out of the Furnace (2013)

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

Film Review : The Central Park Five (2012)

Netflix Watch Instant
IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Directed By : Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon

A documentary that examines the 1989 case of five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park. After having spent between 6 and 13 years each in prison, a serial rapist confessed to the crime.

There’s nothing like watching a documentary like this at midnight and having your blood boil so much that you can’t get to sleep after it’s over. That was my experience watching The Central Park Five. I was born in 1989 so my memory of these events and the following trials were how I like to say in New Jersey non freaking existent. I’ll be honest, I’ve never even heard of this trial until I read about this film a couple months ago. The trial and crime swept my native tri-state area more than twenty years ago and the fact that I’ve never heard of it just shows how forgetful the media can be, forgetful and menacing.

The film really does a great job building up tension as pretty much all the key players are present giving interviews including the kids (now adults). The only people absent are the detectives themselves but nobody really expected them to show their faces on film and tell us how wrong they ended up being. It really was unbelievable how the events took place as the NYPD basically lied out their asses so that they could convict basically five kids who showed up first. It’s also a wonderfully character study on the psychology of being interrogated for 30 hours straight and how you’ll literally say anything to get out of that room. It’s hard to talk about this film without giving most of the events that take place away, even though these events are pretty much known to most people anyway.

The film ended up being infuriating but highly interesting and intense. The fact that it’s on Netflix is just another good reason to check out The Central Park Five.


Film Review : The Iceman (2012)

IMDB Score – 6.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 67%

Directed by : Ariel Vromen
Starring : Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, James Franco, and David Schwimmer

As a New Jersey native, I have been aware of Richard Kuklinski for some time now. He’s kind of regarded in my area as the boogeyman. We were never told that he wold get us if we were bad but we were definitely told to be careful around our area due to the fact that horrible people exist in this world and that Richard Kuklinski was one of them that was from where we called home. I actual work in an area he would routinely bury bodies. That being said, I’ve see the interviews with the man himself and I’m very impressed with Michael Shannon for his portrayal of the Iceman. Shannon really was the perfect person to play Kuklinski. When you watch teh actual interviews you can just feel how cold (i hate puns) the man really was. His answers and descriptions of how he killed people are chilling (I hate myself) to the bone and Shannon nailed that same expressionless face.

Besides Shannon, the acting was pretty good. Ray Liotta seems to be in this role two times a year now. I guess because he plays the supporting asshole crime boss pretty well. James Franco makes an unusual appearance for a second and Chris Evans was pretty entertaining. The story gets a little washy in the middle and I felt myself just wishing Shannon would kill something again but it rounded out well towards the end.


Film Review : Red State (2011)

Netflix Instant Watch
IMDB Score : 6.2
RT Score : 58%

Remember when Kevin Smith used to make raunchy dialogue driven comedies about New Jersey and the subculture of un wealthy people and what they do for fun? This is none of that. This is a balls to the ball action film that tries to push as many buttons as possible. It’s a real shame because the film had a lot of potential that was completely squashed by the last fifteen minutes. The hour before that however was intense and watchable as any action film can be. I really enjoyed that part. The problem is the movie wasn’t finished or at least appeared to be incomplete. It just sort of flamed out all of a sudden right where a truly badass climax could have occurred. One thing is for sure, Michael Parks was flat out fantastic. His character might just be in my top ten of just flat out bonkers villains. He was a joy to watch. Ultimately it was like a meal at a really awesome restaurant that is taken away from you before you can finish. It would have been an awesome meal had that not happened.