Sadly and almost criminally overlooked during awards season, Out of the Furnace was one of my favorite films of 2013. Written and directed by Scott Cooper, it’s a melancholy character study that explores the ever-increasing prevalence of violence in American culture, and the consequences of succumbing to such influences.
Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is an ex-con trying to put the pieces of his life back together, while simultaneously looking out for his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Army veteran who would rather earn a living through bare knuckle brawling than working at the steel mill like the rest of his family. Rodney’s temper has a tendency to get the better of him, which runs him afoul of Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a sadistic backwoods drug dealer with a sprawling criminal empire.
The heart of the film lies in the relationship between the Baze brothers, with Bale and Affleck turning in riveting, heartbreaking performances. These are two decent men who have taken very different paths in life, and as their choices pull them further away from each other, we can’t help but feel for them. Not to be outdone, Harrelson is positively terrifying as 0ne of the most despicable onscreen villains in recent years, and his interactions with both leads are chill-inducing.
While the Blu-ray release of Out of the Furnace features a great video transfer that accentuates the bleakness of this tale, it’s sorely lacking for supplemental materials. A theatrical trailer and a handful of featurettes that amount to less than 25 minutes are the only offering here, and a director’s commentary from Cooper is shamefully absent. Viewers looking for more than just cursory insight and perspective will be sorely disappointed.
Out of the Furnace is still one of the best films of 2013, and certainly a film that deserves to be seen far more than it was at the box office. That being said, the Blu-ray’s surprising lack of additional features make it tough to justify a purchase, and a rental will likely suffice for most viewers.