2013's Out of the Furnace is another fine example of how putting together a tight cast can mean bringing life to a film. It is easily one of the darkest films of 2013, showing a grittier side to America and how far some people can descend before they have hit rock bottom.
Russell Baze is an every day working man, living from paycheck to paycheck desperately seeking a better life for himself and his brother Rodney. After a car accident lands Russell in prison for drinking and driving, his brother starts getting involved with organized crime and an underground fighting ring. After Russell is released and Rodney goes missing, Russell decides to take matters into his own hands.
Christian Bale has proven to be a very versatile actor, even willing to put his health on the line. Despite all the weight loss he has done in the past to take on roles, his role in Out of the Furnace may not be his most physically demanding but it is certainly near the top of his career performances so far. Subtle and driven, Bale grounds his character in a shocking amount of realism and very intense emotions. Affleck is the emotional center piece in which the film is based. Is temperamental Rodney Baze just continues to find himself in more and more trouble as he spirals out of control. Bale and Affleck are both terrific as the story builds. Bale showing vulnerability and acceptance for the wrong he has done his family and the people he cared about, while Affleck's Rodney becomes darker, more despressed and less focused on finding a viable solution to his ever growing problems.
Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana and Forest Whitaker help round out the cast of characters in what is by far on of the most simple yet striking films of 2013. Gutsy in every bold move it made, from the realistic depression setting in on the economically fragile town the Baze brothers call home, the bare knuckle sounds of punches and elbows connecting in the fight scenes and the drug use later on in the film. Each scene provided a look into seedy America and how easily someone can lose themselves when they don't have much going to begin with.
Perhaps a bit formulaic in the way it begins to unravel the story of Rodney in the second half of the film. It uses old techniques, where Russell is the only person unaware of what truly happened to his brother for a period of time. Despite using this tactic, Christian Bale was able to corral the film back in with his fine display of acting when he is called to the police station to deal with his brothers disappearance. Despite using the typical developmental strategy for a film of this nature, Out of the Furnace remains very bold in it's story telling and characterization. Light on action scenes, aside from the few fight scenes and the sequence near the end, Out of the Furnace provides a bleak narration on how easily men who came from a hard working middle class family have nothing left because of how badly the economy is becoming in America.
At one point during the middle of the movie when Russell and his ex-girlfriend Lena finally see each other, we are given the moral center of this story in a nutshell. She mentions to Russell that the Mill his father worked for and that he is now working for is closing down and he simply just responds with a simple line about how it is looking that way. It's simple in it's delivery, simple in it's execution and isn't a major part of the film, but it serves a major purpose in creating the tense atmosphere that Rodney finds himself a part of. Rodney as described in the film did 4 tours in Iraq and now needs to fight to gain a little bit of extra cash, even though during another of the films pivotal emotional sequences he displays a scar that runs about seven or eight inches long and gives a speech about how terrifying his time in Iraq was.
Easily one of the best stories of 2013, Out of the Furnace relies on the ability of it's cast to help bring home the grit of the story on display. Bale and Affleck have perhaps never been better, and Harrelson does a fine job playing the films main villainous role. Definitely a must see.