Living in a small town where the the industrial mill employs the majority of the population Russell and his brother Rodney live a tough life. Russell works at the town mill, slaving away at a dead-end blue collar job only to return home to care for his terminally ill father, whose health shortcomings could be attributed to his own work at the mill. Rodney is much more unstable, with no interest in following his father and older brother's footsteps. When Rodney returns home from the Iraq war he begins to participate in street fights for cash, soon enough finding himself in business with a ruthless backwoods crime leader. When Rodney goes missing the police fail to provide much support, leading Russell to take matters into his own hands and seek justice. Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace is a well-crafted and well-acted portrait of blue-collar America which is as tough and dirty as the people who live this life. Cooper's film paints a pretty hopeless situation for these impoverished blue-collar individuals capturing how little options they actually have in life. Members of these communities have really three choices in life, the town mill, the army, or jail. Out of the Furnace captures this tough life with grace and subtlety never intent on reaching towards sentimentality but rather integrity of this portrayal. This is a film about two brothers with little options, and even though they are very different men in principle, Cooper argues they are actually similar men stuck in the same life circumstances. Cooper uses a good amount of juxtaposition between the two brothers, to capture this with great effect. While Out of the Furnance is a tight narrative it does suffer from a few silly plot points that are either hard to believe, unnecessary or silly. The love triangle aspect of the film is quite frankly distracting and unnecessary. I understand the need to show Russell has lost everything, including the woman he loves, but making her new lover the town's sheriff just felt a little lazy from a writing standpoint, too cleanly setting up for what ensues later in the narrative. In fact, the writing is probably the weakest link of Out of the Furnace, with the more thriller story aspects also feeling rushed and even outlandish at points. Overall, Out of the Furnace is an enjoyable portrait of a blue collar family, capturing the machoism and inevitability which envelopes this lifestyle.
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