Commentary
5:00 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Movie Review: 'Out of the Furnace' Is Well Made, But Isn't Subtle

Woody Harrelson, being vile, and Christian Bale, being unsubtle, in 'Out of the Furnace'
Woody Harrelson, being vile, and Christian Bale, being unsubtle, in 'Out of the Furnace'
Credit rottentomatoes.com

Out of the Furnace is rated by Entertainment Weekly as the eighth-best movie of the year, and it is well written, well photographed, well acted, and generally worth a lot of praise. It is a serious drama for grownup audiences.

But it is also thoroughly unpleasant, with unsympathetic characters, occasional ugly violence and some artsy camerawork that implies subtlety that isn't there.

Christian Bale stands in a Y-fork of a road, trying to decide what to do. Zoe Saldana has a ring tattooed on her ring finger. And Woody Harrelson pours liquor from a bottle while Christian Bale pours molten iron in the foundry in the valley. Harrelson, as Out of the Furnace repeatedly insists, lives in the mountains.

Long-held shots give us time to think about what nobody is likely to miss on first glance, and there is a whole sequence at the very beginning to establish that Harrelson is the brute that every shot including him goes on to prove equally well.

The primitive people who had some nobility in Winter's Bone have nothing like it here, except brotherly love between Bale and Casey Affleck, which is continually presented in such physical terms as to suggest homoeroticism.

I kept wondering how intelligent director Scott Cooper expected his audience to be.

But Out of the Furnace will not bore you. The Harrelson character is so vile that you'll know who to root against. The revenge plot is simple and without distractions, characterizations are clear and varied, and the picture of a subset of American society may be more accurate than I like to think.

And there are no superheroes or big orange explosions.