OUT OF THE FURNACE is set in the Pennsylvania steel town, just outside of Pittsburgh. At the center of the movie are brothers Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney Baze, Jr. (Casey Affleck). Russell, like many others, works in a steel mill and spends much of his remaining time at the bar. Rodney went another route, but his stint in the army still led him back to his hometown, struggling for cash like the rest.
The misguided Rodney borrows money from backroom loan shark John Petty (Willem Dafoe) and promptly loses it. He tries to make it up participating in an underground fighting ring, but his pride doesn’t let him throw the fight. “He might have been safer back in Iraq,” says Petty.
And then he gets involved with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a drug dealer from New Jersey who doesn’t think twice about pummeling a Good Samaritan if they get too far in his business.
There is adultery and jail and murder. There are opportunities seen and ignored and lost. All of it is convincing and, at times, ugly, in Scott Cooper’s dark and occasionally vicious sophomore feature (after 2008’s CRAZY HEART).
Through Cooper’s guidance, authentic-feeling cinematography (by Masanobu Takayanagi) and stellar, developed turns from Bale, Affleck and Harrelson, the film captures a certain portion of the country during what many of the citizens might consider its lowest point.
OUT OF THE FURNACE will be hard for some to watch. It is littered with wrenching and brutal scenarios and characters who have forgotten how to smile, if they ever learned, and lost hope, if they ever had it.
Scott Cooper (6:39): Director/co-writer Cooper discusses his influences while his cast heaps praise.
Crafting the Fight Scenes (5:15) spotlights the brawls.
The Music of OUT OF THE FURNACE (9:07): Cooper talks about listening to music while writing and Pearl Jam’s “Release” as an anthem.