Christian Bale stars as Russell Blaze, a man who works at the mill just like his father did before him, trying hard to make an honest days pay while balancing the care for his dying father and his relationship with Lena (Zoe Saldana). Bale plays Russell with a stoic grace, evoking our sympathy as his life crumbles around him. After an unfortunate stint in prison, during which Russell’s father passed away and his girlfriend shacked up with the town police chief, Russell emerges a man with little left to lose.
His younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) has escaped work in the steel mill by joining the army and completing three tours in Iraq, but now that he is back in Braddock Rodney is having trouble adapting. As Russell comes out of prison his brother is in debt for gambling, which he is trying to pay off by fixing himself in underground bare-knuckle boxing fights. Rodney tries to get rid of his debt with one big fight that he gets his friend John Petty (Willem Dafoe) to set up for him out in the hills of New Jersey.
Despite its many strong performances, all by actors who are immensely talented, Out of the Furnace just doesn't seem to warrant its full two hour runtime. Perhaps the flaw is that the previews promised a violent tale of revenge, whereas in reality the film lacked the pacing to be truly tense. Or maybe the bigger problem was over-anticipation of a film produced jointly by Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott starring Christian Bale. However, I believe the true problem that stopped Out of the Furnace from being as great as it should have been is the script itself. Set in a crumbling town in recession-ridden America, Out of the Furnace is finely acted and filmed with excellent camerawork, yet the motivation behind the plot and the pacing of the film make it suffer. This movie has almost everything going for it, but in the end it doesn’t know where it wants to go with it all, and therein lies the disappointment of a film that could have been much better.