Out of the Furnace (Blu-ray)

March 13, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Despite what your personal thoughts about Christian Bale might be, I have to say that the guy gets into his roles. I know he’s been acting since he was a child, but I first noticed him in 1999’s American Psycho. He took the part over from Leonardo DiCaprio who had to bow out of the film.  It set the stage and tone for Bale’s future roles. Yes, we all know he was Batman but he’s also physically transformed himself and his native British accent on countless occasions. Take a look at 2004’s The Machinist, where Bale lost so much weight he looked like a human skeleton (evidently his daily diet was a can of tuna and an apple). He transformed himself once again in The Fighter, a role which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Leaving out his infamous rant on the set of  Terminator: Salvation, I think it’s safe to say that Bale might be one of the better actors working today.  So with Out of the Furnace, Scott Cooper’s follow up to the Academy Award winning Crazy Heart, could Bale do it again?

Bale plays Russell Baze, a generally decent fellow who can’t seem to catch a break. His ailing father (Bingo O’Malley) has spent his life working at the mill, and is now knocking at death’s door. Rodney (Casey Affleck), Russell’s younger brother, has just returned from his latest tour of Iraq and has issues of his own. Namely he’s got a borderline gambling problem and owes money to local hood, John Petty (Willem Dafoe). Petty himself owes money to Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) and has arranged a series of bare-knuckle fights in which Rodney needs to throw in order for everyone to be profitable.  Seeking even more money, Rodney and John travel to meet up with Harlan only to be double-crossed.  All the while Russell has been in prison for killing a child while driving under the influence.  His girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) has now left him and is living with Wesley (Forest Whitaker), the town Sheriff.  When Russell gets wind of his brother’s demise, he seeks revenge.

Out of the Furnace isn’t an easy movie to watch. It’s not really that pleasurable or uplifting. I was remixed of The Last Picture Show and the recent Prisoners.  The cast is littered with big names and Academy Award winners/nominees, so I’m sure that the hope was that the Academy would, in part, pay attention when the award season begun. They didn’t.  Cooper’s previous film, Crazy Heart, garnered Jeff Bridges a long-overdue Academy Award for Best Actor and Bale is certainly in fine form here.  But when all was said and done in 2013, Bale was nominated albeit for American Hustle and Harrelson got much more attention for his work in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  In conclusion, Out of the Furnace isn’t a “feel good” movie by any stretch of the imagination. It does contain several good performances and it’s always nice to see Sam Shepard in a movie these days. But that said, you’ll probably want to shake this one off after the closing credits roll.

Video: How’s it look?

As we might expect, the 2.40:1 AVC HD image is near flawless. Despite the somber and melancholic mood of the film, there are several instances in which color abounds.  The vast emptiness of the mining town seems to sparkle with detail. We can see the grit and grime on the character’s faces, the blood in the fight scenes and the individual hairs that make up Bale’s goatee.  Contrast looks strong and bold as well.  Fox often puts out some of the better-looking transfers with their new to Blu-ray movies and this is no exception.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I was actually pretty impressed with the sound on this film. Granted some of the actors tend to mumble their lines (as Bale often does) and Forest Whitacker’s gritty voice is a nice contrast to the soft-spoken one we’ve heard before.  More impressive was the sound stage and the opening and closing credits with Soundgarden’s (yes, Soundgarden) song.  The range is impressive, spewing out of the front channels with the surrounds offering the slightest assistance. It’s not a slam-bang action movie, but the way the sound was used here was certainly impressive.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I’m assuming that given the less than expected box office, there wasn’t a big demand for supplements here, but here’s a look as to what to expect.

  •  A Conversation with Scott Cooper – The writer/director is profiled here and offers some insight as to his writing and direction.
  • Inspiration – A rather avant grade feature in that the stars of the film tell us what inspired them to pursue the world of acting.
  • Crafting the Fight Scenes – Though there were only a few fight scenes in the film, we’re treated to some choreography and some behind the scenes footage.
  • The Music of Out of the Furnace – Writer/Director Scott Cooper tells of his use of music, how he writes with it playing and his use of Soundgarden’s song made it all come together.
  • Theatrical Trailer

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