Christian Bale may not be my favorite actor, but I do highly respect his work ethic and how he’s balanced blockbusters with more indie fare. Last year, he had two films – the brilliant American Hustle, where he transformed himself and got a well-deserved Best Actor nomination, and the disappointingly bland Out of the Furnace, which makes me wonder if Scott Cooper is only suffering from sophmore syndrome, or he just is a one-hit wonder.
This isn’t a bad film, it just never lives up to the concept. Bale is brilliant, but he’s too rough and ready to play the character of Russell Baze, who we are supposed to believe is really a good guy who is looking for his brother. Bale doesn’t have the emotional resonance for this role, and because of that, the film becomes more clinical. Casey Affleck is a talented actor, and he’s done well to stay out of his brother Ben’s Academy Award-winning shadow, but here he overacts just a little, but he manages to keep it afloat. Woody Harrelson needs to try and get roles that don’t require him to be so gruff, and maybe we will like him a bit more. He failed to play the villain of this film very well, and although he tried his best, it just fell flat. However, there were two seriously great performances in this film – the criminally underrated Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard, who had a McConaughey-like output last year with this, Mud and August: Osage County. The man deserves lead roles again, and he clearly has great talent. Finally, Forrest Whitaker is a great actor, but man was he terrible in this – his voice was so fake and rough, and he gave a wooden performance for the ages. Its sad because his performance in The Butler was actually years better than this.
Overall, this film had a great premise, but the execution was sloppy. It was overlong, both in length and in the story – most of the core story takes place in the last forty minutes, leaving over an hour of filler material. This film was cold and dark, and just a slight bit more work on behalf of Cooper and the actors would have made this film just that much better.