Life is about knowing your limits. In all manner of activities, we need to know when to say I’ve had enough people, I am taking a rest. Take it easy with the pushups, your heart could explode. Seven is a lot. Stop working so many hours, you don’t want to stroke out in the middle of the office. Stress kills. Worse yet—modern medicine saves. You don’t need the embarrassment of going back to the office after you have recovered, especially if they saw you drooling and shitting yourself on the floor. It wasn’t even happy hour, for Pete’s sake. And you probably don’t remember this, but that heavy-set girl from accounting with the acne and clubbed foot gave you mouth to mouth. Now you guys are like one. She likes Darth Vader too!! You should at least buy her lunch in the cafeteria you ungrateful bastard. You were out cold, you don’t even remember her bad breath. It will come back to you once you are sharing a soda in front of all your amused co-workers. You can have that Star Wars themed wedding now!!
It seems many of the characters in Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace don’t know their limits.
Gambling is as sinister a demon as there is. It could hurt you worse than a nightmare concocted by George Romero that slices you open with razor blades in the shadows of the crumbling skyline of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Why do you need that one more bare knuckle fight at the abandoned mill? You don’t want to mess with those inbred psychopaths from the Ramapos. Your hometown of Braddock might have its share of cretins, but those crazy rednecks would smash their old lady’s face into the dashboard of their muscle car if they don’t like the movie playing at the drive-in. You know you don’t like taking dives, especially in front of a bunch of shitkickers exchanging money as they yell your name from their mouths, teeth appearing to be an optional accessory for most of them. Does getting your head beaten in until your face looks like a catcher’s mitt stained with red wine appeal to you? Didn’t you get enough of that shit fighting somebody else’s war in Iraq? Do you need the violence to stay sane? Does the pummeling keep the nightmares from rising up at night and turning your sleep to torture?
How many times has one more for the road ended badly? One could bet that ending up in a wreck is about as sure a thing as George Brett taking Goose Gossage deep late in the game at Yankee Stadium. Relax Pine-Tar boy!! Why do you want to share a drink with the two-bit criminal that your brother owes? Isn’t paying down some of his debt enough? That steel mill doesn’t pay you nearly enough to cover your little brother’s monetary squanderings. Don’t feel obligated even though the creep makes it seem like you are insulting him if you don’t imbibe. This sniveling turd of a guy claims to like your brother just like pretends he is some respectable businessman, sitting in his office at the local tavern, licking his fingers clean of animal grease and sauce like he is a man of importance. He wants to make some bullshit toast for good health or whatnot with you. The next thing you hear clanking after those whiskey glasses come together might be the iron doors of a jail cell, brother.
Speaking of drinking, this amateur author has seen Out of the Furnace three times. The first time was a few months after it was released in theaters. Is it such a great movie that I had to see it three times? I am not sure. The acting is excellent all around, but it might be missing something that is preventing it from being a classic. The next time I saw it was two days ago. My second viewing saw my brain a little fuzzy as I was hungover from wine and Tullamore Dew. To further distract me from Christian Bale’s beautifully greasy hair and Woody Harrelson’s bad-ass, snarling grit, I realized my conscience was about as clear as a windshield smeared with the guts of a million locust. My wallet was light an extra $250 as I had called an Asian Escort for some Chinese takeout. On the bright side, she was high quality and she took a tasteful picture with me after money was exchanged for services. I am going to use it on the Christmas Cards I send out to family and friends. If I have to look at all these cheerful, half retarded kids my buddies are having, dressed like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer or one of Santa’s Little Helpers they can deal with a shirtless Tarmac and my Asian guest in her sexy lingerie. Her bra and panties were pink and I am not sure that color was in the manger anywhere, but what can you do? I felt it best to give Out of the Furnace another watch last night because the Sunday viewing had my mind wandering back to the website I had used, especially when Zoe Saldana was on screen.
Whiskey and Asian escorts are such a beautiful, 90 proof lament.
If one wants to write like Bukowski, one should live like Bukowski. At least the good parts like drinking and dirty sex with strange women who might not even remember your name once they leave your place. If it is a professional thing, I always use cash, so no one knows my name. That line on the credit card statement that says Zephyr Entertainment or some nonsense like that is just rubbing my face in it. And that woman with the sexy voice at Visa knows what that is for when she is telling me that they can’t extend my credit this month. She knows a new liver is going to cost you more than $500, so my limit will not be upped. She seems knowledgeable. Maybe I have gotten drunk with with her husband at Nolan’s Pub in Long Beach.
For the record, I will never be as good a writer as Bukowski. The drinking part is more attainable, but the damn day job adds up to a lot of missed time at the tavern, especially during the day when the high class people are there. I guess I will be doomed to mediocrity. For the record, I don’t believe Out of the Furnace suffers the same fate as my literary and booze guzzling careers. It is a solid crime flick, wrapped up in a family drama that is only missing that pinch of salt that would make it a classic.
Don’t blame the actors. They all knock it out of the park. The film lags in certain places and some of the artistic choices–like cutting back and forth between a brutal bareknuckle brawl in the mud and an uncle and nephew going deer hunting–seem to put the brakes on the film when it should be rolling forward like a freight train rumbling over a wrought iron Truss bridge. One gets the point director Cooper is trying to make, but it hurts the flow of the story.
Christian Bale plays Russell Baze, a hardworking young man just trying to survive in a dying steel town. He is responsible and he looks after younger brother, Rodney, played really nicely by a jacked up Casey Affleck. This is the physical appearance Affleck should have had in Gone Baby Gone. Rodney is a gambler and owes money to the wrong people. Does anyone ever owe money to the “right” people? The phone company came at me hard for $61 once. Maybe a few tours of duty in Iraq will straighten out Rodney?
The chemistry between the two is excellent. This writer doesn’t have siblings(my parents were ashamed of the hell they brought to the planet, so they stopped after they had the one nightmare from a Larry Cohen flick), but I have seen real brothers interact with each other. It’s not like trying to witness that whale and squid duking it out three thousand feet below the surface of the ocean. Brothers are everywhere. When Russell warns Rodney about gambling the lecture turns into making fun of each other. These are little touches that make it real. In a powerful scene, Rodney confronts Russell with the shit he witnessed in war and how he feels the country left him behind. It is his reasoning for doing what he is doing. Russell remains silent, the look on Bale’s face saying that maybe he agrees with his brother, even if he can’t condone his actions. The two actors are great here.
As is the case with most villainous roles, the movie belongs to Harrelson. He plays redneck kingpin and all around mean fellow, Harlan DeGroat. If you are at a party and you hear someone named Harlan DeGroat is coming, you are probably going to get your coat and hat and get the fuck out of there. DeGroat is a man that has a problem with everyone. He actually growls this as he walks past Bale’s character in the back room of a bar. This isn’t just scene chewing, mustache twirling with the stove pipe hat sneering at everything. Harrelson grounds DeGroat in reality, a disturbing reality that is unseen by most who live in more populated and modern areas. There is a scene where DeGroat seems to show compassion for a battered Rodney Baze after he threw down with some dude with his bare hands. Harrelson gives us the impression that DeGroat may even respect Rodney for his grit and determination. This is not the stuff of Oil Can Harry.
The cast is rounded out by veterans like Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker. No surprise that they all perform as well as expected. They can bore you with their excellence. Final mention goes to Zoe Saldana, who plays Russell’s ex-girlfriend Lena. The filmmakers did their best to dull her beauty so she could look like she was a working class girl from a dying town. However, she makes a dirty flannel look like a silk gown. One wonders if she is the Furnace from the title because she is so hot? Saldana is also a talented actress, even if if she is all blue and running around a strange planet with a boring Sam Worthington.
To be honest, this author would rather be stuck on the tarmac with an Asian escort than be watching any movie. However, Out of the Furnace is a really solid flick that you should invest two hours in. Perhaps you don’t need as much salt as me and you will think it has that classic status.