Runtime: 116 Mins
What To Expect: Commentary on the humiliation of veterans, Woody Harrelson ultra alpha performance
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Out Of The Furnace (2013) proved to be the stogie on one of Woody Harrelson’s best years of his career, on top of that brilliant run of his in True Detective. It was one of our top five manliest movies of 2013. Since the movie has come out, I’ve noted a slight further decline on its critical appraisal. Somewhere in my mind I am putting that down to Casey Affleck’s role and the taboo subject matter of not wanting to confront the plight of post-war veterans. Fuck the trendy critics if that’s the case. This is a coarse revenge flick with a stacked cast of good actors. Willem Dafoe is here. So is Forest Whittaker, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson and Christian Bale. Bale is someone I have to admit having previously liked as an actor, before his superstar turn in The Dark Knight series. He made some good movies such as Equilibrium, The Machinist and Rescue Dawn. It’s good to see him downplay things here with a superb script alongside Woody Harrelson.
It’s a tried and test formula for Manly Movies – a man seeks vengeance when scumbags terminate his kid brother. Russell (Bale) and family are struggling on the rust belt in 2008, especially Bale’s kid brother Rodney (Affleck) who has just come out of four tours in Iraq and is now suffering from PTSD. Rodney is on a course of self destruction fighting in bare knuckle fights where he doesn’t give a damn about money, so when he’s ordered to throw a fight and refuses he collides with lowlife Woody Harrelson (DeGroat). Russell, having just been released from the joint, enters single-track mind of murderous vengeance.
It almost sounds like Next of Kin (1989) with Liam Neeson ought for revenge when his brother (Bill Paxton) was killed. But this is of a different genre. This movie is a restrained thriller, yet it’s vicious and enthralling. I like the subtext of abandoned veterans facing betrayal upon leaving the service, like the movies of old in the 80’s like First Blood. There’s even a shot at Obama, at least that how I interpreted it, when the movie briefly jeers at a subject welcoming him as the next Kennedy. Probably not a coincidence, this movie has a lot to say about economic peril for the working man. Yes, cynical stuff, but the good type. Refreshing.
It does hit the brakes around the centre, story wise. That’s probably my only complaint, but even then you barely notice. That’s because the real value of this movie lies in the acting performances. Man, they’re just fucking slick. Director Scott Cooper has mastered the art of subtlety and lets his fine actors put in measured performances. Harrelson puts in a career best, and that’s saying something – you’ll believe he’s a murdering piece of shit. Bale tones it down, equalling his co-star and Affleck may have stolen the show as troubled veteran Rodney, had he been given more screen time. That’s before you even consider Cooper’s natural direction and heavyweight support actors.
The Blu-Ray release is pretty much another one of those instances where you’re buying it for the movie alone. These days there’s little to say about Blu-Ray transfers unless something extraordinarily bad or good is presented. Out of the Furnace is just another ‘damned good’ 1080p transfer, it’s what you expect. Nothing more, nothing less, but the best way to view this classy movie. The extras though are worthless. Four ‘YouTube-Sized’ features that will have ended by the time you return, should you briefly leave the room. These are just online clips that have been lazily ported to the disc, but at least they’re in high definition.