A revenge mission doesn’t play well when you don’t care about who’s avenging what and why.
Christian Bale and Casey Affleck lead as the Baze brothers. Bale’s Russell is the older of the two and does his best to sustain a standup lifestyle, dedicated to his job at the local steel mill, his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), and his family. Affleck’s Rodney, on the other hand, opts to enlist in the army in hopes of finding something to live for outside of Braddock, Pennsylvania. However, after four tours in Iraq and only mental and physical scars to show for it, Rodney winds up back home competing as a bare-knuckle boxer to payoff his debts. When Rodney doesn’t return from a fight in Harlan DeGroat’s (Woody Harrelson) territory, Russell takes it upon himself to head up into the notorious Ramapo Mountains and bring his brother home.
Rather than kick things off by strolling through everyday life in Braddock, “Out of the Furnace” runs with a bleaker introduction, showing off the wrath of its antagonist. The choice to screen “Midnight Meat Train” is a little distracting, but the drive-in movie location is a novel and dynamic setting, that adds an extra layer to Harlan’s tantrum via bystanders’ reactions. Harlan’s behavior is vicious to the point of being disconcerting, but it does function as a highly effective opening hook.
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