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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Out of the Furnace

March 9th, 2014

Out of the Furnace - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Out of the Furnace came out the weekend after Thanksgiving, which is a dead zone at the box office. Despite being in the heart of the winter holidays (Thanksgiving through New Year's Day) the weekend after Thanksgiving is often times among the worst weekend of the year for wide releases. That was certainly the case in 2013 and Out of the Furnace was part of the problem. Is it as bad as its box office numbers would indicate? Or did it fail to find an audience in part because of the release date?

The Movie

The movie begins with someone puking at a drive-in theater. That someone is Harlan DeGroat. After physically abusing his date and beating up a man who stepedp up to defend her, he takes off.

With that prologue out of the way, we look in on Russell Baze, who works in a local steel mill. On the way home from work, he sees his brother's car at on off track betting site. Rodney Baze Jr. is betting on the horses, which surprises Russell, as Rodney has no money. Turns out he borrowed it from John Petty, someone Russell doesn't want his little brother hanging out with. Russell spends the night with his girlfriend, Lena, but has to leave in the morning because he's working a double-shift. He does check in on his father, who is dying, before going to work.

After work, Russell heads to Petty's bar. He's supposed to meet Rodney there to discuss the money Rodney owes Petty, but Rodney's a no show. Instead, Russell goes to meet with Petty himself, interrupting a contentious meeting Petty was having with Harlan. Harlan doesn't like the interruption. Russell offers to pay some of Rodney's debt and tells Petty he will pay the rest if Rodney can't. The pair have a drink while they talk about Rodney. Both sides are worried about Rodney's decision making process, but Russell is also worried about Rodney going back to Iraq for a four tour of duty, while Petty thinks it might keep him out of trouble.

While driving home, Russell, who is tired and a little drunk, gets into an accident with a car pulling out of a driveway. When we next see him, he's in prison. We see his life in prison and over a couple of visits from Rodney, we learn his father died and Rodney's last tour of duty left him with at least a mild form of PTSD.

When Russell gets out of prison, things have changed, and not just his father dying. Lena dumped him and didn't even tell him. Rodney says she's with Wesley Barnes, the local police chief. Rodney's life is also changed a lot. He's been fighting for Petty in illegal boxing matches. We see him in a fight where he was supposed to take a dive, but the man he was fighting kept taunting him, so he refused to stay down and eventually won. Now he owes Petty even more money. It's enough money that he thinks the only way it to get into bigger fights up in Jersey, where Harlan's from. You can probably see where this is going, and it won't be pretty.

Out of the Furnace feels like a mix between The Fighter and Winter's Bone. I can see why there was some Awards Season buzz before its release. There is an amazing cast and a lot of them give top notch performances throughout this film. However, I can also see why it only earned mixed reviews. The pacing is terrible, which is made worse by the fact that you know what will happen to the majority of characters by the end of the movie. It is not a matter of if these characters will die, but what stupid mistake will cause them to be killed. We know right from the start that there will be a deadly showdown between Russell and Harlan, so there's no tension there. Maybe if the characters and the situations were more engaging, I would have been drawn in and even the lack of surprises would not have been as big of an issue, but for most of the movie's running time, I was watching the clock waiting for something more to happen.

In short, Out of the Furnace has a great cast, but the script doesn't give them enough to work with to make for an engaging movie.

The Extras

There are four featurettes on the DVD and the Blu-ray, starting with Inspiration, a three-and-a-half-minute long featurette on what inspired the filmmakers to make movies. Up next is a seven-minute featurette on the director / co-writer Scott Cooper. Crafting the Fight Scenes is a five-minute making of featurette on the fight scenes. Finally, there's The Music of Out of the Furnace, which runs nine minutes long. That's not a lot of extras.

The film is about a group of people in a small town whose lives are depressed, just like the town's local economy. As a result, the filmmakers choose to not include a lot of color in the film, mostly grays and browns. This means the film is far from the best I've seen, but you can't blame the transfer for that. The level of details is strong, as are the deep blacks, while there are no compression issues or digital artifacts that attracted my attention. The audio is clean with some activity in the surround sound speakers, but this is not a complicated mix.

The Blu-ray costs just $18, which is $3 or 20% more than the DVD. This is a fine deal for a movie without exclusive extras or amazing technical presentation.

The Verdict

Expectations for Out of the Furnace ran a little high given the cast, but the end result is only okay. If you like the cast, then it is worth checking out, but all of them have done better movies recently. Neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray have enough going for them to lift them beyond a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, Out of the Furnace, Forest Whitaker, Casey Affleck, Christian Bale, Scott Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, Bingo O'Malley, Zoe Saldana