Out of the Furnace
What parents need to know
Positive role models
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Out of the Furnace is a revenge thriller set in steel mill town in Pennsylvania near the Appalachians. It features some bloody, gory violence, mostly in the form of underground, bare-knuckle boxing matches. One character is a psychopath who beats up, shoots, and/or kills several characters. He also roughs up a woman. The main character drives drunk, causes an accident, and goes to jail. Characters drink a good deal of beer and whisky, and the bad guy is a drug dealer, and hard drugs are sometimes shown and/or discussed. Language is very strong, with fairly frequent use of "f--k." Sex is not an issue, though there is a loving couple shown, and the woman is said to be pregnant. The movie's strong suit is its acting, and it may enthrall some older teens, but it's not recommended for younger viewers.
What's the story?
In a Pennsylvania small town, two brothers struggle to make ends meet. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) works at the steel mill, even though his father lies dying after a lifelong career in the same place. Russell's brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and now fights in underground bare-knuckle boxing matches for money. After Russell gets arrested for drunk driving, and loses his loving girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), Rodney becomes involved with a dangerous gambler and drug dealer, Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). Harlan lives in the Appalachian Mountains where normal laws do not apply, and so Russell finds he must venture into unknown territory to find justice for his family.
Is it any good?
Former actor Scott Cooper made his directorial debut with Crazy Heart, which won a long-deserved Oscar for actor Jeff Bridges. Cooper follows that film with his second directorial effort, OUT OF THE FURNACE. It's another exercise in superb acting, even if it's sadly lacking in the storytelling department. It's sometimes confusing, glossing over simple details. For example, it's not clear at first why Russell goes to jail, and it's unclear just how long he's there.
Cooper succeeds in establishing a deliberate, gritty, moody pace, reveling in a small-town atmosphere. Unfortunately, this pace does not serve the simple, pulpy revenge story. It drags on too long, and it's too grim; the climactic chase appears to be unfolding in slow motion. However, the tone does help to establish the strong characters. Woody Harrelson in particular makes a memorable backwoods villain, vile, vicious, and unpredictable. The performances of the entire cast easily ranks with their best work.
Families can talk about...
- Families can talk about the movie's intense violence. Is this kind of violence meant to thrill, or is it meant to establish a certain kind of mood?
- Why do the characters in this small town seem to drink so much alcohol? How realistic is their behavior while drinking and the consequences that result?
- Why are revenge stories so satisfying? What is gained by revenge? What is lost?