Out of the Furnace – Beware The Hillbillies of New Jersey? – Review

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Photo Courtesy Relativity Media

Out of the Furnace is one of those movies where you look at the roster of stars and wonder what the heck made them think this was a great idea.  It couldn’t be the money.  Could it?

Christian Bale stars as Russell – an ex-con who lost everything in life after a horrible, but preventable, accident.  He has emerged from prison with the hope of getting back to the life he left behind, but his girlfriend, Lena (Zoe Saldana), has moved on, and his brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), has been suffering with many troubles, since returning from overseas military duty.

Rodney has become involved in illegal, bare knuckles brawling, which is controlled by nefarious underworld figures.  While he has been making a name for himself around town, Rodney wants to go big time, and convinces a local organizer (Willem Dafoe), to let him participate in higher stakes fights.

Unfortunately, this means he has to come across psychopath Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), who has ordered the young pugilist to take a dive in the fixed fight (that’s “lose on purpose” for those of you who haven’t seen a 1930’s film noir featuring phrases like, “take a dive”).  Sadly, after the fight, Rodney disappears and Russell is not convinced the police are doing everything that can be done to find him, so he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Out of the Furnace is a horribly boring movie that feels like it went all kinds of wrong in the editing process.

You don’t have to worry if you are running late, because the first half hour is meaningless.  You can take your time, find a nice parking space, grab a bite to eat, stand in line for popcorn and walk in 30 minutes late for this movie and miss nothing.  The entirety of this section of the film could be explained in one scene, but we are subjected to thirty minutes of material that does nothing to set the mood or provide vital information to explain the rest of the film or help us better understand the characters.  Sure, it gives Bale a chance to act, but it’s a vain effort.

Then, writer Brad Ingelsby and writer/director Scott Cooper give the audience an extremely simple, straight forward movie.  You keep waiting for some big twist or shocking revelation, but, it turns out, there is nothing more to Out of the Furnace.  Instead of looking for more, you should be looking for less.

This leaves everyone in Out of the Furnace to growl their lines, since they don’t get any meaningful dialogue.  Bale is growling.  Harrelson is growling (he sounds like a hungry and angry grizzly bear!).  Forest Whitaker is growling.  Sam Shepard is growling.  Heck, Saldana might have even been growling a bit (like a sexy hungry and angry grizzly bear).

Then, each castmember is left to stand there with long pauses that imply what they growled should be meaningful and deep, but it’s not.  We’re just left waiting for them to gather up the strength to growl some more as they attempt to look gruff and mean.

Most of all, I can’t get over the villains in Out of the Furnace.  Cooper and Ingelsby want us to know these guys are, for lack of a better term, hillbillies.  But, they are the Hillbillies of New Jersey!  Say what?!?!?!

I have spent alot of time in New Jersey, and I never saw dudes like this, in the part of the state where they are located in Out of the Furnace.  You have never even seen guys like this on The Sopranos.  Later in the movie, one of them is driving a car with Tennessee plates, but we supposedly go to one of the guy’s houses, and it’s in New Jersey.  It’s too complicated, and shows you how utterly unremarkable Out of the Furnace is when I am hung up on something as trivial as this.

0_5waffles_sml½ Waffle (Out of 4)

Out of the Furnace is rated R for strong violence, language and drug content.

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1 Comment

  • Jimmy Carl Black

    While I'm not defending the movie as a whole – it was indeed rather boring and not well edited – there are indeed people like this in New Jersey. I grew up in rural NJ and I can tell you that there are plenty of very scary, insular communities full of people you would never want to cross or meet on a dark road. The Ramapo mountains are one area. The Pine Barrens are another.

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