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Friday, December 20, 2013

OUT OF THE FURNACE: Big Cast, But Big Mistakes Set Cooper Back. Dafoe, Whitaker, Harrelson Save This Film Which is Riddled With Errors.

So many errors - where to start?  How about the beginning - which is masterful.  We see Harrelson's character, DeGroat, at a drive-in with his girl.  He is creatively effective as he introduces us to his character.
Woody and Dafoe - a dream pairing.  Their presence is what makes Hollywood film so great
Scott Cooper returns from his well—earned success with Crazy Heart to write and direct “Out of the Furnace.”  They should have named this film “Down and Out in Scranton, P.A.”
A film must exhibit some type of extraordinary feature for me to go see it nowadays.  This one was easy:  Woody Harrelson playing a hard villain – the potential was too juicy to pass up.  We’ve got a top-shelf set of actors in this one: Affleck, Bale, DaFoe, Harrelson, Soldana, and even Whitaker. Usually, with an all-star cast like this, a film is impossible to screw up.  Seems highly unlikely one could mess it up, right?

Dafoe plays John Petty - such a great name to use in a film like this.  The film claims to be about the rust belt - and an iron mill.  But we see no mill, no work no nothing.

Cooper employs a simple, realism-focused style to this film project.  Delivery would be up to the actors – where we experience mixed results.  However, the primary flaws to this story sit with Cooper. This is no Crazy Heart.
Let’s have a look at who did what in “Out of the Furnace,” a film billed as being set in a steel and iron mill community.  Outside of two helicopter flybys over a metal mill, there are no scenes involving  any type of work associated with anything.

Have a look yourself - would you put your $ on Affleck?  A big error of Cooper's os that they keep having Affleck intentionally lose - when - it looks like he woulkd anyway - and there are no fights that show hiom being any good - to even make working a bet like this even remotely profitable.  Too fake- for a film that applies aned promotes realism.

Casey Affleck:  You know CA is going to bring it.  He plays the confused, young and troubled Iraqi war vet.  Served four tours no less –talk about laying it on extra thick.  As Bale’s brother, Rodney Baze (great name), CA participates in the region’s money earning past time: fist fighting.  Skinny, lanky, and un-intimidating, CA wins all the time, and even gets asked to lose when it would appear 100% apparent, just by looking at him, that he most likely would.  The latter becomes a big flaw in the film but there are no flaws in CA’s acting.  Refreshingly real. Another fine job.

Horrible performance by Bale.  He apparently thinks he is so big now that all he has to do is - well, nothing, just be.  He needs to check himself -and return to the effort he gave in "American Psycho."

Christian Bale: Plays the older brother, Russell Baze, and it is him, out of all the cast, that has the most trouble finding his character.  His speech is all over the place and it’s as if he is just mailing it in. Feels like he thinks all he has to do is stand there, or sit there, and we should be mesmerized.  A huge disappointment, especially knowing his commitment to this art.

I love the wardrobe here on Dafoe - brilliance!  As for Affleck - I think they grossly miscalculated everything about his character.  Who bets on a horse race - watches the race - then goes to the teller to ask if it was the right race - oh, and pointing to the ticket in his hand. What a joke.

Willem DaFoe:  It is John Petty, DaFoe’s character, who takes the award for best  -performance here – outside of Harrelson, of course. Poor storytelling does not share much with us about Petty and his involvement in fighting, the mill, or the bar he owns .  Whoever scouted the location for this bar should be barred from the industry for five years.  Still, the bar remains an issue – here we have an important location, used for multiple key scenes, and there are no people, and it has no character.  DaFoe, however, is at his best and he gives this film the genuine feel it needs.

Harrelson delivers.

Big cheers for Harrelson

Woody Harrelson:  Ah, the antagonist here, Harrelson plays Harlan DeGroat to perfection.  Interesting to note that his presence establishes such an impact to the point where he doesn’t require the usual one or two goon squad members, or side-kicks we would normally see cast.  Harrelson excels on his own and the opening scene is one of the best I’ve been able to enjoy in a long time.  It would be nice if the script permitted a fight involving Harrelson and Affleck – which really would have boosted this film’s score  to the next level. Instead, we are blessed with an acceptable level of screen time for DeGroat, which is nice.

Zoe Soldana: She looks better than ever here.   Watching her on the big screen is worth the price of admission. (great ass!!!)

It was Whitaker's performance that was surprisingly masterful.  Loved it. He is for real.

Forrest Whitaker:  An excellent cameo role for Whitaker.  He develops his character ten times better than Bale with 1/10th the screen time.  Impressive work…shocked.

There are some major issues with this film. For starters, the theme is to have Affleck – a scrawny, emaciated,  pathetic looking man “throw” his fights and lose on purpose.  Now, why would anybody bet on him to win, anyway?  Oh, because he is wearing army-issued fatigues?  It makes zero sense, even more so when he and DaFoe visit DeGroat in Jersey.  No one has seen him fight – and the entire film loses credit.

I admire Cooper’s attempt to create a simple, realism injected film.  It’s just too bad he and his team failed almost across the board.  Soldana and Bale laugh- hysterical laughter, I’m talking about – whenever they can- for no reason.  This is unreal – especially when taking into account their character’s lives.

Another area of concern with this film is the constant background music. Whether it is a deep, subtle bass tone, a banjo (yes),  a flute, or snare drum and cymbal, excessive background music is distracting.

On the bright side, the film creates a couple unique, quality, raw moments of intensity and tension – effective enough to feel.  Bale’s car wreck and  Affleck’s fight in Jersey are superb and this effect is difficult to produce
Outside of another major scouting issue with DeGroat’s house –  the activity and everyone inside of it, along with an awful set of lines delivered by a NJ state trooper, this film was a fun time.  Harrelson and DaFoe carry the weight – and make this film almost an 8.

SCORE:  7.6821

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