Spoiler alert: Out of the Furnace has a bad ending.
On second thought, can you spoil a bad ending? After two hours of watching Christian Bale and Casey Affleck tear themselves apart emotionally, you deserve a better conclusion than what this film offers up.
A revenge flick dipped in a rich Deer Hunter sauce, Out of the Furnace tackles post-Iraq PTSD and post-economic crisis uncertainty in rural America. That would be plenty, especially given the cast; in addition to Bale and Affleck, director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) squeezes in Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard, Forest Whitaker, and Zoe Saldana. But those two topical issues are only launching pads for something much less interesting: The seedy underbelly of unsanctioned bare-knuckle boxing.
DeGroat (Harrelson) is a drug kingpin in the mountains of western New Jersey. Things are so rough there that the law just leaves them alone. DeGroat also makes money arranging fights, the kind you see a lot of in movies but never hear about anywhere else – held in a barn, rows of guys who look like they have no money waving a fistful toward the grisly action in the makeshift ring.
That’s where Rodney Baze (Affleck) fits in. Struggling to make sense of his life after four tours of duty in Iraq, Rodney makes small-time money with fights like this. But he should have never fought for DeGroat.
He’s cruel, vicious, and violent. Unfortunately, that’s all he is. To be fair, it’s the only character with no substantial depth. When Rodney goes missing, older brother Russell (Bale) sets out to find him, and to deliver the kind of justice to DeGroat the police won’t.
You’ve no doubt seen something like Out of the Furnace before. This one’s dolled up a little differently, but it’s entirely a standard vengeance picture with a really unsatisfying ending. And that’s a shame because the cast is giving it their all.
Out of the Furnace, Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson. Directed by Scott Cooper. Rated R, 116 mins.