Set in a broken-down, Rust Belt Pensylvania steel mill town, "Out of the Furnace" has a character that gets no credit line: the broken down economy that has shuttered the town and the dreams of those who live there.
Christian Bale stars as Russell Baze, a dutiful steel mill worker, who cares for his dying father, works at the mill and worries about his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck). Rodney has gone to Iraq four times--at least a check as a solider is better than no check at all.
A car accident lands Russell in prison. When he emerges, his father is dead, his former girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) is dating the town's sheriff (Forrest Whitaker) and his brother is involved with a brutal, evil meth dealer, Harlan, played by Woody Harralson. I won't give away the plot, but will say that things don't go well for anyone in this grimy, gritty, gripping film.
Here's what the critics are saying:
What’s unusual about Mr. Cooper, though, and also appealing, is that he recycles clichés so un-self-consciously. He borrows plenty from other movies (“The Deer Hunter,” “Warrior”), but unlike the postmodern pasticheur who gets off on his own clever allusions, he steals without irony or self-protecting quotation marks. As a consequence, much as he did with his directorial debut, “Crazy Heart,” he brings an old-fashioned conviction to the material. The goods may be canned, but the sincerity with which he delivers them can make them hard to resist. Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Serious or silly, this movie should have been irresistibly grand and propulsive. Instead it limps along, occasionally seizing a glimmer of purpose but then getting distracted by a smoky sunset, a mythic silhouette, or a portentous bit of cross-cutting between moments that don't really have all that much to do with each other. The script, co-written by Cooper and Brad Ingelsby, genuflects toward relevance, citing the War on Terror and the depression of 2008 and beyond, but rather than emerge gracefully from the story, these aspects feel as slapped-on as bumper stickers. Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
Writer/director Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace is a thoughtful and empathetic human drama, one full of sharply realized character turns and a distinct cultural milieu. As a character study of good people beaten down by economic hardship, it is a mournful and emotionally potent story that happens to contain one of Christian Bale's more low-key performances. Everyone here is good, but Bale, best known for being a cinematic trip wire, is all-but worth the price of admission by himself. Scott Medelson, Forbes
It's the little things we take home with us, such as the handwritten menu above the bar in the local tavern ("We Have a New Fried Hot Sausage Sandwich"). The big things, such as the cross-cutting between a deer hunt and the grisly demise of a major character, betray a heavy hand. Yet Affleck, in particular, finds something fierce and noble in uneven material and in his character's rage. He's not like any other actor in American movies. "Out of the Furnace" has four or five actors of which you could say the same. Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune
The setting of “Furnace” is as hard-etched as its characters. Mountains loom in the background, but more prominent are the hardscrabble towns and ramshackle homes hunkering in their shadow. Cooper, whose “Crazy Heart” (2010) had a similar affinity for shaggy outsiders, maintains a heated, naturalistic feel, though his and Brad Ingelsby’s script does fold a few corners too neatly. Yet like “The Deer Hunter” — from which it swipes its Keystone State milieu, its haunted veterans, its self-endangerment metaphor and a crucial central image — “Out of the Furnace” gets under your skin. Bale’s commitment etches a raw portrait of stagnation and sadness. Affleck is heartbreakingly feral, and Dafoe, Harrelson and Whitaker provide solid support.Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
"Out of the Furnace" is rated R. It runs 106 minutes.