Run time: 117mins

Director:  Scott Cooper

Cast: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana and Forrest Whitaker



Synopsis: Acclaimed director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) takes audiences on a vivid and intense journey into the heart of a fading American Dream in Out of the Furnace, as fate, family and loyalty drive an ordinary man to take heroic measures to fight for those he loves.

Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is an ordinary, hard-working man who loves his girlfriend, Lena (Zoe Saldana) and cares for his terminally ill father and troubled soldier brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) in a grim, Pennsylvania town sinking in post-industrial gloom.

Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) is a repulsive, psychotic antagonist, whom we first meet in a deeply disturbing opening scene in a drive-in movie theatre. He controls a section of the lawless Appalachian badlands, dealing in drugs and organising bare-knuckle fights.

Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) is nearing the end of his Iraq army tour of duty but runs up gambling debts with local crime boss Petty (Willem Dafoe) who in turn owes large amounts to DeGroat.  Russell starts to pay off his brother’s debts but a drink driving accident earns him a spell in prison, unable to deal with the growing family crises outside.  When Rodney takes part in a bare knuckle fight for money and then disappears in DeGroat’s fiefdom, Russell decides that the local law enforcement is taking too long and sets off with Uncle ‘Red’ (Sam Shepard) to find him.

This film benefits from a top level ensemble cast giving riveting performances plus the beautiful cinematography of Masanobu Takayanagi, which captures the decaying industrial scarred landscape in blues and greys.

Bale is totally convincing in a tragic role where nothing good comes his way. Willem Dafoe adds great complexity to his role as the local crime boss and Casey Affleck delivers another gutsy performance as a veteran of four tours in Iraq. But Sam Shepard, Forrest Whitaker (the local police chief) are sadly underused and the motives of Zoe Saldana as the primary school teacher girlfriend, Lena are pretty obscure.

The film has its strong points, but overall the story doesn’t convince as it takes a depressingly conventional path to its inevitable conclusion.

Images courtesy of Lionsgate UK