Released in 2013, Out of the Furnace is a crime drama directed by Scott Cooper and starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, and Zoe Saldana. The film tells the story of two brothers, Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck), who live in a dying Rust Belt town in Pennsylvania. Russell is a steel mill worker struggling to make ends meet, while Rodney is a veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and resorting to underground bare-knuckle fighting to pay off his gambling debts. When Rodney disappears, Russell goes on a dangerous quest to find him and take revenge on the ruthless drug dealer, Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), responsible for his brother’s disappearance.
Out of the Furnace explores themes such as brotherhood, revenge, loss, and redemption, in a setting where the American Dream has faded away. The film has been compared to other crime dramas such as The Godfather and Mystic River and has received mixed reviews from critics and audiences. In this review, I will analyze the movie’s plot, characters, themes, and impact on the industry and society, comparing it with three similar films. I will also provide personal opinions, favorite moments, and controversies, and rate the movie on a 1–5-star scale.
Plot Overview and Historical Context
Out of the Furnace is set in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a real town that was once home to one of the largest steel mills in the country. The movie portrays a town in decline, where the steel mill has closed down, leaving many of its workers unemployed and struggling to survive. The town’s decline is not only due to the closure of the steel mill but also to the loss of industries and jobs across the Rust Belt, a region in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States that has been in economic decline since the 1970s.
The movie’s plot centers around Russell Baze, a steel mill worker who takes care of his terminally ill father and his younger brother, Rodney, who has just returned from his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. Rodney, suffering from PTSD and unable to find a job, gets involved in underground bare-knuckle fighting to pay off his gambling debts to John Petty (Willem Dafoe), a local bar owner who runs the fights. Rodney’s involvement with Petty and his violent criminal associates leads him to cross paths with Harlan DeGroat, a ruthless drug dealer who operates in the area.
After Rodney disappears, Russell becomes obsessed with finding him and taking revenge on DeGroat. Along the way, Russell confronts various characters, including the local police chief (Forest Whitaker), a former flame (Zoe Saldana), and his ex-con uncle (Sam Shepard), who tries to persuade him to give up his quest for revenge.
Real-life events and figures are referenced throughout the movie, such as the Iraq War, the closure of steel mills in the Rust Belt, and the rise of the opioid epidemic in rural America. The movie’s portrayal of the Rust Belt and its economic decline reflects the reality of many small towns in the region, where industries and jobs have disappeared, leaving many people struggling to make ends meet. The movie also touches on issues such as PTSD among veterans and the impact of addiction on individuals and their families.
Budget, Earnings, and Awards
Out of the Furnace had a budget of $22 million and grossed $15 million in the United States and $22.7 million worldwide. The movie received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performances and the atmosphere, while others criticized the plot and the pacing.
Despite the mixed reviews, the movie received several award nominations, including a Critics’ Choice Movie Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Woody Harrelson) and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
While the movie did not win any major awards, it was generally well-received by audiences and has since gained a cult following. The movie’s strong performances and atmospheric setting have been praised by many viewers, and it has been cited as an underrated gem in the crime drama genre.
Out of the Furnace has a strong ensemble cast, with Christian Bale and Casey Affleck delivering compelling performances as the Baze brothers. Bale’s portrayal of Russell as a stoic and self-sacrificing man trying to keep his family together is understated but powerful, while Affleck’s portrayal of Rodney as a troubled and impulsive man seeking escape from his problems is nuanced and sympathetic.
Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Harlan DeGroat, the villain of the movie, is chilling and convincing. Harrelson brings a sense of unpredictability and menace to the character, making him a formidable opponent for Russell. The supporting cast, including Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, and Willem Dafoe, also delivers solid performances.
Out of the Furnace explores several themes, including brotherhood, revenge, loss, and redemption. The movie portrays the strong bond between the Baze brothers, who are willing to do anything to help each other, even if it means putting themselves in danger. The movie also portrays the destructive power of revenge, as Russell’s quest for vengeance leads him down a dark and dangerous path.
Loss and redemption are also key themes in the movie. Russell and Rodney both experience loss in different ways, with Russell losing his father and Rodney losing his sense of purpose and identity after returning from war. Both characters are searching for redemption, with Russell trying to save his brother and Rodney seeking to regain his sense of self-worth.
Comparisons with Similar Films
Out of the Furnace has been compared to other crime dramas such as The Godfather and Mystic River. Like these movies, Out of the Furnace explores themes such as family, loyalty, and revenge. However, Out of the Furnace differs from these movies in its portrayal of a small town in decline, where the American Dream has faded away. While The Godfather and Mystic River are set in urban environments, Out of the Furnace portrays a rural town where jobs and opportunities have disappeared, leaving many people struggling to survive.
Another crime drama that shares some similarities with Out of the Furnace is Winter’s Bone, a 2010 movie set in the Ozarks, which also portrays a community struggling with poverty and addiction. However, Winter’s Bone focuses more on the impact of drug addiction on families and the community, while Out of the Furnace explores the consequences of violence and revenge.
Impact on Industry and Society
Out of the Furnace did not have a significant impact on the industry or society, but it did receive critical acclaim for its performances and atmosphere. The movie’s portrayal of the Rust Belt and its economic decline resonated with many people in the region, who could relate to the struggles faced by the characters.
Out of the Furnace is a work of fiction, but it portrays real-life issues such as the closure of steel mills in the Rust Belt and the rise of the opioid epidemic. The movie’s portrayal of the economic decline in the region is accurate, as many towns in the Rust Belt have experienced a decline in jobs and industries. However, the movie takes some liberties with the portrayal of the criminal underworld, which is portrayed as more violent and ruthless than it may be in reality.
The soundtrack of Out of the Furnace, composed by Dickon Hinchliffe, contributes to the movie’s atmosphere and sense of melancholy. The soundtrack features melancholic strings and haunting melodies, which add to the movie’s somber tone. The soundtrack also includes songs by artists such as Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, and Ryan Bingham, which complement the movie’s themes and setting.
Out of the Furnace is a well-crafted movie that delivers strong performances and an atmospheric setting. The movie’s portrayal of a dying Rust Belt town and the struggles faced by its residents is both poignant and timely, given the current economic challenges faced by many small towns in the United States.
The movie’s exploration of themes such as brotherhood, revenge, loss, and redemption is compelling, and the performances by the cast are top-notch. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck stand out in particular, delivering nuanced and convincing portrayals of the Baze brothers.
However, the movie’s pacing can be slow at times, and the plot can feel meandering. The movie also takes some liberties with the portrayal of the criminal underworld, which can be jarring for viewers familiar with the realities of small-town crime.
One of the most memorable moments in the movie is the final confrontation between Russell and Harlan DeGroat. The tension and violence in the scene are palpable, and the resolution of the conflict is both satisfying and tragic.
Another standout moment is the scene in which Russell visits his ex-girlfriend, Lena (Zoe Saldana), who is now married to the town sheriff. The scene is understated but emotionally charged, and the chemistry between Bale and Saldana is palpable.
One of the main controversies surrounding Out of the Furnace was its portrayal of the criminal underworld in small towns. Some critics argued that the movie’s portrayal was exaggerated and perpetuated negative stereotypes about rural communities.
Another controversy surrounding the movie was its portrayal of the Iraq War and its impact on veterans. Some viewers felt that the movie did not do enough to explore the psychological trauma faced by veterans returning from war.
Overall, I would give Out of the Furnace a 4 out of 5-star rating. The movie’s strong performances, atmospheric setting, and exploration of themes such as brotherhood, revenge, loss, and redemption make it a compelling and thought-provoking film. However, the pacing and plot can be slow at times, and the portrayal of the criminal underworld can feel exaggerated.
Out of the Furnace highlights the struggles faced by small towns in the Rust Belt and the impact of economic decline on individuals and communities. The movie also explores the destructive power of revenge and the importance of brotherhood and redemption. Ultimately, the movie serves as a reminder of the importance of community and resilience in the face of adversity.
10 Popular Quotes
- “Sometimes your face looks like a map of Ireland, the way it’s all bumpy and twisted. And you’ve got that white skin that never tans. It’s like you were born inside a coffin.” – Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson)
- “You ain’t got but one life.” – Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck)
- “If you’re gonna start something with someone in this town, you best finish it.” – John Petty (Willem Dafoe)
- “This place, it’s in my bones. It’s in my blood.” – Russell Baze (Christian Bale)
- “I gotta get out of this place. If it’s the last thing I ever do.” – Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck)
- “I’ve seen guys like this before. They’re not afraid of jail, they’re not afraid of death, they’re afraid of pain.” – John Petty (Willem Dafoe)
- “You do what you can for your family, right?” – Russell Baze (Christian Bale)
- “I’ve done things in my life I’m not proud of. I’m not asking for your forgiveness. I just want you to understand.” – Uncle Red (Sam Shepard)
- “You think you’re gonna live forever, and then you’re not.” – Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck)
- “Sometimes I think I’m cursed.” – Russell Baze (Christian Bale)
10 Creative Facts
- The movie was originally titled “The Low Dweller” before it was changed to “Out of the Furnace”.
- Scott Cooper wrote the script with Christian Bale in mind for the lead role of Russell Baze.
- The movie was shot on location in Braddock, Pennsylvania, the town where it is set.
- Casey Affleck lost 25 pounds for his role as Rodney Baze Jr., in order to portray a character struggling with PTSD and addiction.
- Woody Harrelson based his portrayal of Harlan DeGroat on real-life drug dealers he had met in his youth.
- The movie’s director, Scott Cooper, has a background in music and previously directed the movie “Crazy Heart“, which won Jeff Bridges an Academy Award for Best Actor.
- The movie’s soundtrack features songs by Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, and Ryan Bingham, among others.
- The movie premiered at the AFI Fest in November 2013, and was released in theaters in December of the same year.
- The movie’s budget of $22 million was partly funded by Relativity Media, who later declared bankruptcy in 2018.
- The movie received a limited release in Europe, where it was retitled “Dust to Dust”.
Out of the Furnace is a compelling crime drama that explores themes such as brotherhood, revenge, loss, and redemption in the context of a small town in decline. The movie’s strong performances, atmospheric setting, and exploration of real-life issues such as the closure of steel mills and the rise of the opioid epidemic make it a thought-provoking and timely film.
While the movie’s pacing can be slow at times and the portrayal of the criminal underworld can feel exaggerated, these flaws do not detract from the movie’s overall impact. The movie’s exploration of the destructive power of revenge and the importance of family and community in the face of adversity make it a poignant and emotionally resonant film.
Out of the Furnace may not have had a significant impact on the industry or society, but it remains a powerful and memorable movie that deserves to be seen and appreciated by a wider audience. Its portrayal of the struggles faced by small towns in the Rust Belt and the impact of economic decline on individuals and communities is especially relevant today, as many parts of the United States continue to grapple with these issues.
Overall, Out of the Furnace is a well-crafted and engaging movie that delivers strong performances, a compelling setting, and a thought-provoking exploration of important themes. It is a movie that will stay with viewers long after the credits roll, and that is a testament to its power and impact.