Russell Baze (Christian Bale) and his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) lives in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. Russell works at the North Braddock steel mill, while Rodney is US military veteran with 4 tours in Iraq on his cv. Russell has a reasonably normal life and his relationship to his girlfriend Lena (Zoë Saldana) is strong. On the other hand Rodney is restless and carries all the horrific experiences from his time in Iraq as a stone around his neck. One day Russell catches Rodney at a horse racing simulcast where Rodney had just bet on a losing horse. Rodney reveals John Petty (Willem Dafoe) loaned the money to him. Petty owns a bar and runs several illegal games. Eventually Russell offers to pay off some of Rodney’s debt, promising to pay Petty the rest with his next paycheck. Driving home intoxicated, Russell hits another car, killing its occupants, including a little boy. He is incarcerated for vehicular manslaughter. While in prison he is informed that his father has passed away, and that his girlfriend Lena (Zoë Saldana) has left him for the small town police chief, Wesley Barnes (Forest Whitaker). Upon his release from prison, Russell returns home and resumes his job at the mill. He wants Lena back but she is pregnant with Wesley’s baby. While Russell has been in jail Rodney has started to participate in illegal bare knuckle fights under the supervision of Petty. Rodney tells Petty the “nickel and dime” fights will never give him enough money to pay Petty back. Rodney then insists that Petty call and organize a more lucrative fight in New Jersey. Petty reluctantly arranges a fight with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a sociopathic drug dealer from New Jersey to whom Petty owes a lot of money. Rodney is told he must lose the fight. When DeGroat seeks assurances Rodney will lose, Petty promises he will. Rodney almost knocks out his opponent, but when hearing Petty pleading with him, Rodney helps the fighter get up and then proceeds to let the man pummel his face. After the fight, Petty tells DeGroat that this fight made them even, reminding him that was their deal. DeGroat drops the subject. While driving back home, Petty and Rodney are ambushed by DeGroat and his men. DeGroat first shoots and kills Petty, and on having Rodney dragged to the woods, kills him as well. Unbeknownst to anyone, when reaching into his pocket for a rag that he gave to Rodney, Petty accidentally dialed his cell phone and it fell onto the car seat. The call connected to his bartender Dan’s voice mail and provided proof that DeGroat was the killer. That night, Russell finds a letter from Rodney, stating that this will be his last fight and that he wants to work with Russell at the mill. Wesley informs Russell about his brother’s disappearance and Russell sets off to take matters into his own hands to find justice…

“Out of the Furnace” gives us yet another high class performance from Christian Bale, but as well from Casey Affleck, Zoë Saldana and Woody Harrelson. This movie is intense, strong, emotional and engaging. The script is solid with good characters and has strong topics such as family ties, dreams, hope, disappointments, death and remorse as pillars. The environments are not very pretty and the classic industrial small town redneck feeling adds a dark layer on the movie. I like the fact that for the first hour the movie was very open and it was not that clear where the story was going. Christian Bale has shown so many times that he is one of the best actors in his generation and it´s always a pleasure to see how he immerse himself in his roles. On the minus side of the movie is a slightly jumpy narrative which is not really bad, but not good either. I prefer a more logic narrative when you present the whole picture and not just framed parts. Nevertheless, “Out of the Furnace” is a great piece of film. (4 out of 5)

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