A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Overcoming your differences with others. Though the benefits of teamwork are displayed, relationships are formed out of necessity and motivated by material gain. Racist and bigoted language and behavior.
Positive Role Models
Hanif, an Afghan cameleer, is hardworking and resourceful. He agrees to help Mal, an Australian outlaw, melt some gold that Mal has stolen before sharing the spoils. Although their motivation is obviously for financial gain, Hanif also has more sympathetic reasons. Various White characters display bigoted and racist attitudes, and violence to people of color. An Indigenous tribe are generous toward Hanif despite his outsider status, although his mission causes friction.
A variety of characters of different ethnicities and faiths, including Sikhs, Afghans, and Persians. Some characters outside of these groups are respectful of these different faiths and their rituals, and make an effort to use their respective languages. Other characters are less considerate. Some characters are in "indentured servitude," meaning they must work without pay in order to clear a debt or as part of a punishment. The cast is nearly all male.
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Violence & Scariness
Characters hunt and kill for food with spears and rifles. Bloody injuries to animals. Animals slaughtered off camera. Characters shot and killed. Character impaled on a spear and killed. On-screen deaths with bloody injuries but no gore. Dead bodies with minor bloody injuries. Character punched to the ground, threatened at spear-point. A dead body is shown with its chest pinned open.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters seen with no shirts. Reference to gazing at someone's breasts.
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Racist language and terms used. An Afghan character being referred to as "boy" and Indian characters wrongly referred to as "Ghans." One character states that people of color all look the same to them. Also the term "Chinese pr--k." White characters are referred to as "Whites," and aboriginal characters as "Black fellas." Also "f--k," "f--king," and "bloody."
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Products & Purchases
Characters steal gold for financial gain. They also fight and disagree over their share of gold. An aboriginal tribe shun the chance to become wealthy.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character smokes from a pipe, is dependent on opium. But no inebriation is shown.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Furnace is an Australian Western set in the 19th-century outback with a diverse group of characters, racist language, cursing, and violence. The movie centers around the unlikely pairing of Mal (David Wenham), a bushman on the run with two stolen gold bars, and Afghan cameleer Hanif (Ahmed Malek) who agrees to help him in exchange for a share of the gold. There is strong diversity among the predominantly male cast with leading roles represented by, among others, Afghans, aboriginal people, and Indians. These characters are shown speaking their own languages with some other characters showing a conscious effort to learn both their languages and rituals. But there are also tensions between the groups with racist language and behavior on show. One White character is called out for his racism. There are hunting and gunfights both consistent with the period, with some bloody injury and death. A corpse that has been opened up along its torso is briefly shown. Consumerism powers the story in part, because of Mal's desire to steal and transport gold. None of the characters are rich and the desire for financial gain leads to a number of conflicts. There is some discussion of opium use and one character smokes from a pipe. It is unclear as to whether this is opium or not. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This Australian Western -- or, as they're known colloquially, a "meat pie Western" -- brings to light a period of late 19th-century Australia rarely shown on the big screen. The Furnace focuses on a time when the British imported camels from India and the Middle East, and in the process, coerced handlers into unpaid labor. The movie's diverse cast of characters -- including Sikhs, Afghans, and Persians -- are its main strength, as it gives writer-director Roderick MacKay opportunity to examine Australia's colonial past. The different groups alternate between co-operating and fighting among themselves, giving many scenes a heat that burns hotter than the outback's sun-scorched weather.
Unfortunately, the story The Furnace tells isn't as compelling as its cast. In contrast to its assured performances, there's just not enough plot to sustain an almost two-hour runtime, while too many characters meet predictable ends. Nonetheless, this is still a bold, interesting movie that has the potential to encourage filmmakers and audiences to think differently about a genre that is often guilty of neglecting the past.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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