The trailer for Out of the Furnace is basically two and a half minutes of flames, punching, Christian Bale staring stoically at the ground, and Casey Affleck screaming "I gave my life for this country, and what has it done for me?" We can't tell if that it means the film, directed by indie hero Scott Cooper, is going to be a poignantly gritty drama, or an over-wrought mess.
In all honesty, the whole time we were watching the trailer, we were thinking it seemed like a louder, dirtier, more violent version of The Fighter. Instead of Lowell, Massachusetts, we're in the impoverished, industrial Rust Belt, and instead of a complex prizefighter with a heart-of-gold, we have a deeply damaged former soldier fighting as part of some criminal underworld. While the same tropes appear — the inextricable linkage between fighting and hyper-masculinity, urban poverty, brotherhood, lawlessness — they're amped up to the Nth degree.
If Out of the Furnace takes a cue from The Fighter and balances violence with raw emotionality and three-dimensional characters, it has the potential to be great. From what we can tell, it might do just that. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck are brothers, with Bale playing the honest, hard-working ex-con brother who feels concern for Affleck, the archetypal troubled gang-banger. Their relationship may ground the film in human drama rather than cheaply brutal thrills.
Still, we're concerned about the grimy-faced tough guys like Woody Harrelson (who even as a snarly gangster remains as huggable as he was on Cheers) who populate the "gang" scenes in the trailer, and Casey Affleck's histrionic screaming.
But don't take our word for it, judge for yourself.