A mood of almost inconsolable and inescapable sadness hangs over every frame of Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace. The film features a terrific cast doing magnificent jobs putting this melodramatic revenge story on the screen, but its narrative is so bleak and its ultimate effect so chilling that one wonders how much replay value there might be for this mournful look at some of life’s truly tragic losers.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 56 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/11/2014
Steel worker Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is having a hard time keeping his family together what with a dying father and unstable brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) always in debt to unsavory elements in their Pennsylvania community. A freak accident while intoxicated lands Russell in the slammer for a while, and when he gets out, his girl Lena (Zoe Saldana) has left him for the local sheriff (Forest Whitaker), his father has died, and his brother, back from his fourth tour of duty in Iraq, is now slaving away as a street fighter taking dives from fixer John Petty (Willem Dafoe) for the low end money. When John and Rodney get mixed up with crazy New Jersey hood Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) and wind up dead, this event is finally enough to push Russell over the edge as he searches for some kind of justice for his brother and his family.
The Production Rating: 4/5
Written by director Scott Cooper and Brad Ingelsby, the script takes numerous short cuts in not spelling out every little nuance of the story (though one misses some of that filler – Russell’s length of time in jail and with only a glimmer of his time there being offered, Lena’s motives for switching lovers, the backstory of the fixed fights), but even with those omissions, the film still runs almost two hours, plenty of time to get utterly depressed by the chronic, almost laughable streak of bad luck Russell must endure during the movie. The writers are very fond of writing with the director's staging scenes in ironic counterpoint to one another: Russell’s stalking a buck in a forest hunting scene contrasts with Rodney stalking his opponent during one of his street fights; Russell’s pouring molten steel contrasts to Harlan’s preparing his heroin injection. The ironic juxtapositions between Russell’s honorable pursuits (he lets the buck live even though he’s in his sights, and he continues to work in the steel mill despite rumors the plant will be closing soon) and the dishonorable activities of his brother and nemesis are rather obvious, but they still make for some very effective imagery. Cooper also blocks and shoots those visceral fights, that horrific car wreck that happens in the blink of an eye (one of the most realistic stagings caught on camera in some time), Russell’s beatdown at the prison, a tension-filled walk through a crack house, and the later stalking through a foundry with whip-smart intensity.
The actors are brilliant throughout. Both Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson are as good or better than they’ve ever been (Harrelson offers one of his scariest-ever performances of explosive insanity, and Bale gives us another slow-witted blue collar worker which seems eons removed from his slick, smart Bruce Wayne), and they’re ably abetted by Willem Dafoe as the sleazy fight fixer, Sam Shepard as the brothers’ loving uncle and about the only positive light in their lives, Forest Whitaker as the sheriff who must balance his duty with his concern over his new girl friend’s guilt over having left her former sweetheart, and especially Casey Affleck as the lost, unstable Rodney looking for any way out of his path toward destruction. Zoe Saldana is earnest as disloyal Lena, but her role is the least well fleshed out of the principal characters and her performance seems incomplete because of it.
The film is presented in its 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is pleasing but short of razor-edged quality, and contrast is sometimes inconsistently rendered, too. Color is nicely realized in this mostly somber, gray community, but skin tones are quite natural. Black levels vary from inky black to milky gray with shadow detail being only fair. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers an excellent surround encode that brings action scenes like the street fights alive with full utilization of the available channels. Sojourns into the woods likewise offer the sounds of nature coming from all around, and the mix places Dickon Hinchliffe’s pulsating, edgy score through the fronts and rears expertly. Dialogue has been as well recorded as it could be though several of the actors do mumble their lines occasionally which might require replays or subtitles being switched on in order to catch everything.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Inspirations (3:30, HD): Sam Shepard, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, and Christian Bale comment on films or situations that influenced their decisions to become actors.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Scott Cooper Interview (6:39, HD): the director discusses his interest and treatment of the material as portraying a vanishing way of life and exploring the nature of violence in our society while actors Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, and Zoe Saldana praise the director for his passion and expertise and Christian Bale lauds the Pennsylvania locations which he believes act as another character in the story.
Crafting the Fight Scenes (5:15, HD): stunt coordinator Ben Bray praises Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson’s commitment to training and their athleticism in making their various scenes of fighting truly realistic.
The Music of Out of the Furnace (9:07, HD): composer Dickon Hinchliffe, director Scott Cooper, and music supervisor Bob Bowen talk about how songs and the original score work to enhance the mood and emotion of the movie.
Theatrical Trailer (2:24, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): the Robocop remake, The Counselor.
Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.
Almost unbearably sad with great performances but little in the way of an emotional catharsis for the viewer at its conclusion, Out of the Furnace was a not unexpected box-office disappointment despite its star cast and excellent production. The Blu-ray offers a pleasing audio and video presentation for those who wish to partake of this less-than-uplifting entertainment.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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