Out of the Furnace

A neo-noir revenge thriller with a Winter’s Bone vibe

The pragmatic Russell (Christian Bale, excellent as always) makes the most of his life in a depressed rust-belt town, working shifts when they’re available in a hazardous steel mill. His hothead kid brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), a damaged Iraq War vet deep in debt to a benevolent local loan shark (Willem Dafoe), opts to go for the gold in clandestine bare-knuckle fights. But the money he wins, sometimes by Dafoe to get him a match in a more lucrative, tougher New Jersey fight counterintuitively taking dives, is never enough, and he persuades ring run by the notorious hillbilly hood Harlan DeGroat, played in full, unhinged-sociopath mode by Woody Harrelson (a long way indeed from that amiable bartender on TV’s Cheers). What could go wrong? Long story short, stuff happens, and the movie morphs into a neo-noir revenge thriller with a kind of Winter’s Bone vibe to it. Sags a bit as we wait for the inevitable comeuppance to roll around. But it’s amazing to watch what these committed actors (also Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard) do with their admittedly underwritten characters. The director is Scott Cooper, who got Jeff Bridges an Oscar with 2009’s Crazy Heart. Japanese title: Furnace: Ketsubetsu no Asa. (116 min)