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Out of the Furnace


Stars: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana

Director: Scott Cooper

Slow, dark, grim and unrelenting, this deeply unpleasant backwoods thriller provides a showcase for naturalistic acting with heavily muttered dialogue, relaxed delivery, and in the case of its truly horrible villain (Harrelson) much lollipop-sucking to boot.

An ideal title would have been The Deer Hunter had that not been memorably pinched long ago.

Bale plays Russell Baze, who works at the eponymous small-town blast furnace (now threatened with closure) in West Virginia, and hunts deer with his uncle (Shepard in an unusually meek role) in what little spare time he finds.

His brother Rodney (Affleck in one of his most likeable performances), a jobless Iraq war veteran, takes on backstreet boxing to scrape some sort of living, irking his promoter (Dafoe) by refusing to take dives.

The claustrophobic plot takes a breather when an alcohol-impaired Russell lands in jail after a car backs out in front of him and he kills its occupants. It's not very clear what this sequence has to do with the rest of the film but, by the time Russell comes out, Rodney is badgering his promoter for a fight up in the dangerous Appalachian hills, where the inhabitants, led by the drug-infused and literally murderous Harrelson, are only marginally more civilised than those in The Hills Have Eyes.

What follows is really just an old-hat plot, elements of which date as far back as My Darling Clementine, dressed up in blue-collar style. Dafoe is shot, Affleck disappears, and Russell opts for personal revenge to the dismay of police chief Whitaker, who has coincidentally nicked Russell's girl (Saldana) - a most unlikely partnership - while our hero was in prison, all leading to a rather unspectacular showdown at the end.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Technicolor/Color by Company C.
112 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 24 Jan 2014