In the Pennsylvania rust belt, two brothers are just trying to get along. One (Christian Bale) works at the local steel mill and the other (Casey Affleck) served in the military but now wants to take the easy way by gambling borrowed money and fighting in illegal bare-knuckle contests.
Russell Baze (Bale) would do just about anything for his younger brother, Rodney, but there are consequences to being such a noble character. For starters, Bale is on his way home from paying his brother’s gambling debt, when his car smashes into another, killing the occupants. Russell had too much to drink, so he’s sentenced to prison. Maybe his drinking and driving would have caught up with him eventually. But, it’s obvious that taking care of Rodney has its risks. And, the worst is yet to come.
“Out of the Furnace” is stocked with low-life characters including Woody Harrelson’s Curtis DeGroat, a backwoods fight organizer with a deadly temper. Zoe Saldana as Lena Warren, Russell’s faithful-to-a-point girlfriend. Forest Whitaker as the local peace officer. Willem Dafoe as a short-sighted bar owner who gets Rodney mixed up with the wrong crowd. And, Sam Shepard as a family friend. You can’t argue with the talent of the cast involved. But, you can fault the filmmakers on the less-than-perfect screenplay that wanders about like someone lost in the Pennsylvania backwoods.
“Out of the Furnace” plays like a less-commercial version of Patrick Swayze’s “Next of Kin.” The characters are deeper without being complex. In the end, it’s just another blood feud. Grade: C