Given the choice, good acting is usually preferred to bad acting. Unfortunately, good acting alone does not a good movie make.
“Out of the Furnace” is one of those actors’ movies, the kind where the performers are allowed plenty of opportunities to give very meaningful rants and share extremely important stories and, especially, to stare soulfully at the camera.
It’s filled with very good actors who take advantage of these opportunities to give — mostly — excellent performances.
The film itself, though, is plodding and serious, chock full of symbolism and pretense. It’s predictable, and not particularly interesting.
Christian Bale plays the lead, Russell Baze, a stoic Pennsylvania steel worker with the love of a good woman (a seriously underutilized Zoe Saldana) and a little brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), who spends his time between tours of duty getting into trouble.
Russell, unfortunately, gets sent to prison, and when he comes back, his love has moved in with the local law enforcement (Forest Whitaker, talking in a weird voice), and his brother is in more trouble than ever.
Rather than taking a job in the mill, Rodney opts to make money in brutal bare-knuckle brawls for the local businessman of questionable morals (Willem Dafoe). He wants more, however, and heads to the dangerous redneck hills of … New Jersey, where professional bad guy Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) runs everything.
When Rodney doesn’t come back from the fight, Russell is left with the question of what to do. Rescue? Revenge?
Director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) gets solid work from Bale and Affleck, along with most of the supporting cast, though Harrelson’s portrayal almost feels like a parody.
“Out of the Furnace,” though, sometimes feels more like an acting class than an actual movie. There’s some significant violence, but there’s not really enough action to call it a thriller. It may be satisfying to other actors, but the average viewer will have a hard time warming up to it.
Rental Recommendation: Burt Reynolds and buddies make a leisurely and uneventful canoe trek in “Deliverance.” Grade: A.
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"Out of the Furnace"
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson
Rated: R (for strong violence, language and drug content)
Running time: 116 minutes