It’s cold and bleak today, so Kish and I decided to go see a movie. A bleak day seemed to demand a bleak movie, so we went to see Out of the Furnace — which is bleak, indeed.
Out of the Furnace is purportedly the story of two brothers, one of whom avenges the other, but in reality it’s a grim tale of small town and rural America. The brothers, played by Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, live in a mill town. One of the brothers has a job at the mill, the other has served multiple tours in the military only to return to find . . . nothingness. No opportunity, no hope, and no way to shake the demons created by his experience overseas. He turns to bare-fisted fighting, and the fight scenes are brutal.
Without spoiling the plot, the brothers run afoul of Harlan DeGroat, a twisted sadist played with blazing intensity by Woody Harrelson. You realize that DeGroat is as much a victim of the dead-end world in which he lives as are the two brothers — he’s just turned to drug manufacturing, drug pushing, gambling, and other forms of criminal activity because that’s a way to use his talents. Harrelson is astonishingly believable in the role, and his portrayal of DeGroat is harrowing and will probably inspire a nightmare or two. This is not a guy you’d want to encounter even in broad daylight with a policeman nearby.
Out of the Furnace is a riveting ride, but it isn’t a movie for the faint of heart, and not just because the story is a sad one. We left the theater wondering if the tattooed, beer-swilling, snaggletoothed hopelessness depicted in the movie really reflects what is going on in for young people in small town and rural America — and hoping that it wasn’t.