Review: Out of the Furnace (2013)
The rule of thirds
I had an instructor tell me once, 'if a movie's amazing, but has shitty acting, it becomes a shitty movie.' So on the flip side, if a movie's shitty, but has amazing acting, does it become an amazing movie? Does a falling tree make a sound if no one's around to hear it?
I don't know. What I do know, as far as Out of the Furnace is concerned, is that without the amazing performances it has been blessed with, it would be a shitty movie.
It would be an exaggeration to call Crazy Heart a surprise hit. I'm sure it did better than everyone expected, and Jeff Bridges' Oscar for it (awarded as much for that movie as for his entire body of work I suspect) was the cherry in the whip. But I'm also pretty sure that everyone who worked on that particular film knew it was going to be good and would probably do well. What was maybe more of a surprise was that it came from a relative unknown.
Not exactly materializing out of the ether, Scott Cooper has been around since the late 90's doing bit roles in films big and small and even wrote and starred in a low budget thriller that came out the same year as Crazy Heart. It was shit on by virtually everyone who saw it and isn't something he probably ever wants to talk about again.
I loved Crazy Heart though, despite it's horribly cheesy title, and was very much looking forward to this follow up. Especially considering its cast.
You score Jeff Bridges an Oscar, you're probably going to have the pick of the litter as far as actors to cast in your next film. If I had the pick of the litter for my next film, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker and very possibly Christian Bale would be a few of the names I would jot down. And Woody Harrelson's always fantastic, I'd probably find something for him to do as well.
I wasn't a big fan of the dialogue in Out of the Furnace, it was fairly obvious most of the time and too often existed only to serve the audience with narrative, or to give Woody's (cartoon) character something backwoods redneck-ish to say. But throwing this calibre of acting talent into a heated pot creates a hell of a peppery stew to chew on. There are scenes in this film that are exciting and incendiary solely because of the people who are in them.
That's the good.
The bad is that these actors just don't have enough to do much of the time.
The film starts off slow, spending a good half of its total running time on context and characterization. These are good things to have in a film and you can feel free to keep developing them throughout the entire narrative, many films do. But when they exist without much plot, it gets frustrating for the audience and patience begins to wear thin.
Even when something does happen in Out of the Furnace that seems like an important plot development, it ends up having little to do with the actual point of the movie.
There's a car accident a third of the way in and you think 'ok, here's the turning point, this will feed the rest of the story.' Nope. Doesn't really have anything to do with where the story eventually goes. I suspect it was written in just to keep the audience from dozing off.
So what is the story? Well, although it takes an hour to get to it, it's revenge. Revenge for a family member. Honestly, how many times has this been done? 'You fucked with my family, now you must die.' There's also one particularly hokey scene involving the accidental pocket dial of a cell phone that both makes no sense, and is just silly.
Out of the Furnace picks up speed in the last act, but by then it's almost too little too late. There are a number of good scenes throughout, but they exist in snapshot form, standing alone, rather than as part of a whole and that's about all you take away from the film, story-wise. The performances are fantastic though. Not go to the theatre and see them fantastic, more rent it when it hits iTunes fantastic.
Verdict: A disappointing sophomore slump release from Scott Cooper. Hopefully he gets back on track with his next film.