Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Out of the Furnace. C+

Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace is fine entertainment, with good actors abound, lots of gorgeous master shots, a catchy acoustic guitar soundtrack, and a story that's rarely boring. It's funny how many people picked the movie apart upon its release, as if they were expecting something great. Really, besides its impressive cast, Out of the Furnace is a pretty simple revenge pulp melodrama set in a blue collar Pennsylvania steel town that for some reason was considered potential Oscar bait last year.  Of course, I think what got people a little excited was the fact that this was a big budget studio movie that was largely a drama for adults (the kind of picture that David Denby said the lack of which was spelling Hollywood's doom), and thus their hopes were unreasonably high (the all-star cast also made things deceptive). Now, I clearly understand that the problems most people had with the film are legitimate: the portentous intrusion of the Obama election juxtaposed with Casey Affleck's character's post war employment struggles was a silly move, the structure of the first two thirds is too clumsy, and Christian Bale's role is really undercooked (a lot of people have said Bale's performance is great here, but I found his effectiveness largely had to do with how good he looks with long hair, a goatee, and a rifle). But I'm still not convinced the film ever really had a shot at being anything more substantial than a blue collar thriller. Why else would it open with Woody Harrelson-who plays the film's hilariously over-the-top villain-terrorizing a woman at a drive-in movie, or have him deliver a line like "I've got a problem with everyone" when Bale asks him he's got a problem with him, or have Sam Shepherd in another typecast role as a badass uncle? This movie never had a chance to be great, but it's still an entertaining time at the movies. 

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