Sunday, 9 March 2014

OUT OF THE FURNACE - DVD/BLU-RAY review By Greg Klymkiw - Chilling Neo-Noir Crime Thriller set in the Rust Belt is now available in a beautifully transferred Blu-Ray/DVD combo from VVS Films. Rich for discovery by those who missed it theatrically and highlighting stunning shot-on-35mm cinematography.

Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson: Malevolent Bedfellows
Out of the Furnace is one of the best crime pictures in a long time - one of such unremitting violence and bleakness, yet imbued with a strange muted malevolence tempered by considerable humanity - that it's alternately surprising it received as wide a theatrical release as it did in early December of 2013 and did not, given the pedigree of its director, lay claim to far richer critical accolades and awards consideration that it so richly deserved.

Thankfully, it can be rediscovered by discriminating audiences in the gorgeously transferred new DVD/Blu-Ray combo from VVS Films. The film is gorgeously shot on actual 35mm FILM STOCK by ace cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, and while this was definitely pleasing theatrically on a big screen, audiences will be equally wowed by the look on Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray is definitely the way to go with this one right now and I urge people to see it this way rather than on far inferior modes of delivery like V.O.D. and/or digital download and streaming. The package is competitively priced and the film offers such riches that it's a movie worth owning to experience more than once. For me, the film is often enough in such cases, but for fans of added value material, you'll find a few items of interest such as as series of featurettes detailing subjects like "Inspiration: The Stars Of Out Of The Furnace Reveal What Inspired Them To Become Actors" (a bit too EPK-like for my taste), "A Conversation With Co-Writer-Director Scott Cooper" (decent enough, but I'd really have preferred a detailed commentary track since Cooper clearly has a gift for discussing filmmaking), "Crafting The Fight Scenes" (if this sort of thing interests you) and "The Music Of Out Of The Furnace" (of which I might have preferred a more in-depth analysis of). In a completely and utterly perfect world, a commentary with Cooper and Takayanagi which focused solely on the extraordinary look of the film would have tantalized me to no end, but it is sadly not to be since none of these companies ever hire ME to produce all their extra features. (Insert smiley face here.) The movie, is ultimately the thing, and you get that here in spades.

Out of the Furnace (2013) ***1/2
Dir. Scott Cooper

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

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When a movie opens with Woody Harrelson at a drive-in theatre forcibly shoving a wiener down his date's throat and then, after smashing her face repeatedly against the dashboard he barrels out of the vehicle to savagely beat a man who tries to come to the woman's rescue, you know beyond a shadow of any doubt where you are.


It has another name in America - it's the Rust Belt, the grey, dirty and dreary cities and towns of Pennsylvania that belch endless clouds of poison smoke into the sky from the steel factories providing the lion's share of employment to the dazed citizenry unlucky enough to live there. Save for working in the mills that slowly kill you and/or signing up for military duty in the Middle East, the only other real employment is in the dark underworld that permeates the tattered fabric of this septic tank of despair.

There are plenty of bars and off-track betting parlours to numb the pain of living.

And there's violence. Plenty of it.

Director Scott (Crazy Heart) Cooper's fine, muted crime drama from a screenplay he adapted from an original script by Brad Ingelsby takes us through familiar territory, but it does so in ways wherein the eruptions of extreme cruelty come when you least expect them. The tropes of the genre are employed, but you never quite know how they'll manifest themselves and this might be one of the picture's greatest strengths. An atmosphere of hopelessness pervades the world of the film and even when Russell, a mill worker (deftly underplayed by Christian Bale) tries to make a good life for himself, events conspire to keep dashing his simple, reasonable hopes for something resembling a future. His brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) is a desperately shell-shocked soldier with three horrific tours of duty in Iraq (and a fourth pending). His solace is in gambling and his future in underground bare-knuckle boxing.

Amidst the empty storefronts of Braddock, Pennsylvania and in the dank, empty home where the brothers' Dad dies a painful death from the effects of working the mill his whole life, Russell and Rodney's lives will soon cross paths to be inextricably linked with the psychopathic thug Harlan DeGroat (Harrelson) and the tough, but strangely amiable bar-owner (and bookie) John Petty (Willem Dafoe). To say things get grim is an understatement.

Out of the Furnace is a heartbreaking portrait of an America on the verge of total collapse. Ironically, it's set on the eve of Barack Obama's victorious ascension to the presidency in 2008, but any shred of hope is dashed by the reality of a country that's been battered by a genuinely villainous corporate New World Order that is intent upon driving an even bigger wedge between rich and poor. What's left is an ever-increasing class of the working poor and the insidious element of low-level thuggery and crime.

The movie is finally unrelenting in painting a portrait of a grimy world not unlike the real Old West, where senseless acts of violence can be met with vengeance, but nothing about the retribution is sweet.

Director Cooper delivers a picture that'll be hard for audiences to face, but the end result will haunt them long after the lights comes up and strangely, they'll feel richer for having seen this journey rather than the myriad of empty extravaganzas littering the movie screens. Though the movie is saddled with an unfortunate love-interest and subplot involving Zoe Saldana, it survives this ho-hum intrusion upon a world that otherwise feels intrinsically male - where the traditional roles applied to men continue to permeate a savage, desperate existence.

"Out of the Furnace" is available in Blu-Ray/DVD combo from VVS Films. Feel free to order the film (and other great VVS Films titles) directly from the links below, and in so doing, support the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.

My American Brothers & Sisters can order directly from the links below, & in so doing, support The Film Corner HERE: