Out of the Furnace (2013)

(On Cable TV, January 2016) There’s an acknowledged dearth of mainstream realistic adult dramas in today’s cinematic landscape, but I’ll gladly watch a stream of escapist superhero fantasies if the alternative is feeling like slitting my wrists. Unusually dull and sombre films such as Out of the Furnace aren’t the antidote when they’re paralyzed by so much unbearable self-importance. Taking place in the rusted ruins of American industry, it features two down-on-their-luck brothers trying to fit in a world that doesn’t want them once they’ve gone to prison or to war. Out of the Furnace is never a cheerful film, but it gets steadily worse as the protagonists are pushed in increasingly desperate situations. Director Scott Cooper does know how to handle such a film—alas, the material he’s serving isn’t meant for casual consumption. Christian Bale is fine yet not particularly remarkable as the lead, while Casey Affleck is more memorable, but also less likable, as his brother. There are many familiar actors in smaller roles. The dour tone of Out of the Furnace carries through the ending, which almost comes as a relief given how badly we want to get away from this place.

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