Out Of The Furnace – Christian Movie Review

Writer Kevin Ott At Rocking Gods House

Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is a good guy. In fact, he has a heart of gold. He’s the kind of guy you want to see succeed in the world. But that’s not Russell’s draw of the lot. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong. He’s a modern day Job — a Job who happens to live in America’s financially struggling Northeast Rust Belt in the late 2000s.  Despite the challenges, he does his best: he works hard in a mill, visits his ailing father every day, and checks up on his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck). But when Rodney returns from Iraq and gets caught up in a ruthless ring of organized crime, he disappears. Despite the warnings of people in his hometown, Russell sets off to find his missing sibling.

The film also stars Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, and Forest Whitaker.

Entertainment Value and Film Craft

Christian Bale is absolutely amazing in this film. He has an incredible gift, as does Casey Affleck — not to mention all the other superb performances from Harrelson, Dafoe, Soldana, Whitaker, and Shepard. It really is an actors all-star movie.

But, wow, is it depressing. If you’re feeling a little too happy about your life and you need a good dose of grief and human misery, this movie is for you. Very sad things happen. Innocent people experience great suffering. That being said, it is extremely powerful. It presents such a realistic, gritty, vivid view of humanity in its throes of suffering and violent sin that you can taste the foulness, blood, and smoky ash in your mouth. You can feel the dirty grime of the Rust Belt beneath your skin. It’s shot to look vintage as if it were made in the ‘70s — as if the film spool in the projector room had gotten worn out, faded, and a little yellow.

To be clear, I am not saying this movie is bad, in terms of film craft. No, in fact, it’s brilliant. It’s overpowering. It’s stock full of symbolism, clever foreshadowing, irony, leitmotif, and motif. It is so well-made — as far as pure craft in directing, screenwriting, and acting — that I resent it. I had no choice but to enter wholeheartedly into the sorrow, tragedy, and rage of Russell Baze’s plight.

Did I mention that Christian Bale is an incredible actor? He adds a sereneness, a detached melancholy that is so persuasive and intelligible that you can read the mind of the character without him saying a word. You can see the complex spiral and contradictions of his thoughts as they develop and collide across the character’s face. If you’re an actor trying to learn the craft, study Christian Bale in this film.

Content Requiring Parental Guidance

  • Sexual Content: A man and a woman lie in bed together and cuddle, though the woman is fully clothed, but the man has his shirt off. Nothing else happens. There are no sex scenes or nudity in this film.
  • Violent Content: Tons. Where do I begin? It’s on the bloodier side of the R-rated spectrum, though not on the extreme end (compared to what many movies get away with). However, what might disturb some viewers is how realistic and visceral it is, just like everything else in the film. People are shot in the head, torso, and leg, and the wounds are graphically shown and very bloody. There are fight scenes a la Fight Club that are brutal as faces swell up and bleed from getting pummeled. There is a disturbing scene of awful domestic violence where a man chokes his girlfriend with a hotdog and roughs her up (though she is not killed). The gutting and cleaning of a deer is shown.
  • Language: More f-words than I could count. Women are called whores (by the villain) and other names I can’t put in writing.
  • Alcohol/Drug Content: Plenty of alcohol and drugs, including very detailed close-up scenes of someone making, preparing, and then injecting a drug into their body with a needle.
  • Frightening/Intense Content: Woody Harrelson is frightening. He plays his villain so well that I walked out wondering if Harrelson himself is a little bit, well, unstable. I’m sure it’s just because he’s an amazing actor (probably). He plays a very evil, disgusting man in this film, and the scenes with him in it are usually the ones that have all of the violence and disturbing imagery.

Also, I should add that Casey Affleck’s character plays a vet who is likely suffering from some degree of post-traumatic stress syndrome. That is a touchy subject for me because I’ve known people over the years who have had that. A friend of mine from high school died in Iraq. Although this film does not show any flashbacks of Iraq war violence, Casey’s character talks about his traumatic experiences in lurid detail, and he plays his character so well that you really feel the trauma that the character is experiencing psychologically. This brought up quite a few emotions that I had to work through. If you’ve had personal experiences with loved ones who have fought in Iraq and returned traumatized or if you’ve lost loved ones in Iraq, then just be aware that this movie confronts that experience with great emotional detail. Some people might handle that in a positive way or it might be too difficult — either way, this is just a heads up.

Redemptive Qualities

This film powerfully depicts the great love and mutual support that two brothers can share. In that sense, it is a major tearjerker and very heartwarming. In addition, Christian Bale’s character shows great love for his ailing father, and he does his best to offer unselfish support to another character even though a decision they make hurts him deeply. He works extra hours at his backbreaking job so he can give money to another character who needs it badly. Other scenes show Christian Bale’s character listening earnestly in chapel to a preacher who is presenting the Gospel — something that caught me off guard. The camera lingered long enough for the priest to give a brief Gospel presentation about how Christ died for us and “by His stripes we are healed.” These scenes imply that the main character — the hero of the film — is a Christian. In an age where Christians are depicted so negatively in the media, this was a refreshing discovery. Even though Russell Baze’s decisions did not perfectly reflect the nature of Christ, it was encouraging to see the hero/protagonist of the film depicted as a Christian.


It’s always tough reviewing movies like these. In certain ways, they are impressive for their brilliant film craft. If you’re a film student, there are moments in this movie that you will absolutely love and admire. But, frankly, if you’re looking for something edifying to your spirit, and if you subscribe to the verse in Philippians 4:8 that urges us to “think on good things,” then I can’t say this movie is a good choice. It’s too bad because the acting and film craft is so excellent, and in many ways it is a truly heartwarming film about two brothers. But in the end, there is an emptiness and deep melancholy in all of it, and there is a great deal of blood and sorrow that washes over you as you watch.

If you decide to see this movie regardless, just be prepared to witness some intense violence, and gird your emotions to deal with plenty of heavy material. Keep an eye out for the good qualities in Russell Baze, however, and try to focus on the heartwarming relationship between him and his brother. You will need those moments of goodness to get through the dark and tragic Rust Belt that awaits you.

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