Out Of The Furnace
Rated R for profanity, drug use and graphic violence
Ex-Con Searches For Missing Sibling In Gruesome Revenge Thriller
Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is stuck in a dead-end job at a rural Pennsylvania steel mill rumored to be closing soon. He’s not in a position to abandon the Rust Belt in search of greener pastures, between having to care for his terminally ill, widowed father (Bingo O’Malley) and a kid brother (Casey Affleck) suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Military veteran Rodney, Jr. hasn’t been able to make the adjustment back to civilian life following several tours of duty over inIraq. In fact, he hasn’t been the same since their mother died.
Because of a burgeoning gambling debt, Rodney has agreed to participate in fixed street fights being staged by the bookie (Willem Dafoe) he owes a lot of money. Trouble is he becomes so blinded with rage after being punched that he can’t be relied upon to throw a contest as promised.
Russell is so desperate to save his troubled sibling that he’s even willing to pay off Rodney’s I.O.U. in increments on his modest salary. But even that plan goes up in smoke the day Russell is arrested for manslaughter after driving under the influence.
By the time he’s paroled, Rodney’s disappeared, and is rumored to have been abducted out of state by a ruthless gang of drug dealers led by a sadistic Ramapo Indian (Woody Harrelson) with a short fuse. The local police chief (Forest Whitaker) is sympathetic, but has no jurisdiction in Jersey, which leaves Russell no choice but to take the law into his own hands with the help of hard-nosed Uncle Red (Sam Shepard).
Written and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), Out Of The Furnace is a gritty revenge thriller unfolding against the telling backdrop of a decaying American landscape. Thus, almost overshadowing the desperate search at the center of the story is the sobering specter of an aging national infrastructure irreversibly past its prime.
While the gratuitous violence goes over the top occasionally, the film nevertheless remains highly recommended, at least for folks with a cast iron stomach. For, the veteran cast of this character-driven splatterfest proves to be as adept at delivering dialogue as dispensing street justice.
A gruesome showdown between warring clans reminiscent of an old-fashioned, backwoods feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 116 minutes
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
The Weinstein Company
PG-13 for sexuality, intense violence, disturbing images and brief profanity
Idris Is Impressive In Inspirational Adaptation Of Revered Icon’s Autobiography
Nelson “Madiba” Mandela (Idris Elba) secretly started writing his autobiography Long Walk To Freedom while still serving what he had every reason to believe might very well be a life sentence on Robben Island. The lawyer-turned-spokesman for the outlawed African National Congress had been convicted of treason for trying to dismantleSouth Africa’s racist regime.
But he was indeed freed following 27 years in prison of imprisonment when the bloody civil war was on the brink of bringing an end to Apartheid. At that point, Mandela assured the apprehensive white minority that despite the fact that, “Fear has made you an unjust and brutal people, when we come to power, there will be no revenge.”
Soon thereafter, he was democratically elected the nation’s first black president, assuming the reigns of power in 1994. And that transition to majority rule did prove to be smooth, with the help of pardons for crimes against humanity being granted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to guilty parties from both sides of the conflict.
Directed by Justin Chadwick, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is an epic biopic chronicling the rise, incarceration and ultimate redemption of the revered political icon. Versatile British actor Idris Elba exhibits the requisite combination of outrage, dignity, empathy and steely resolve needed to portray the picture’s complex title character convincingly.
Still, since Mandela spends the bulk of the movie behind bars, much of the action revolves around his wife Winnie’s (Naomie Harris) efforts to raise their children while serving as a leader of the movement in her husband’s absence. Sadly, the decades-long separation eventually took a toll on their marriage, between the denial of conjugal visits and Winnie’s resorting to ruthless methods to silence suspected snitches.
This film easily eclipses a biopic covering the same subject matter called Winnie Mandela. Released just a couple of months ago, that relatively pathetic disappointment co-starring Terence Howard and Jennifer Hudson as Nelson and Winnie, respectively, was marred by the protagonists’ atrocious accents as well as by a god-awful script.
By contrast, this inspirational adaptation of Mandiba’s autobiography more than does justice to the legacy of the triumphant freedom fighter who made so many selfless sacrifices on behalf of his people.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, Afrikaans and Xhosa with subtitles
Running time: 146 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening December 6, 2013
Inside Llewyn Davis (R for profanity and some sexual references) Oscar Issac plays the title character in this Coen Bros. musical dramedy, set inGreenwich Village in 1961, chronicling a week in the life of a struggling folk singer. With Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and Max Casella.
Crave (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a crime scene photographer (Josh Lawson) disturbed by wanton street violence who loses his tenuous grasp on reality when a romance with a beautiful woman (Emma Lung) goes sour. Support cast includes Ron Perlman, Edward Furlong and Christopher Stapleton.
Implanted (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about an accident victim’s (Justin Leak) struggle to separate fact from fiction when an experimental, life-saving procedure performed by his neurologist father (Robert Prago) goes awry. Supporting cast includes Jason Turner, Deborah Childs and Jackie Goldston.
A Journey To Planet Sanity (Unrated) Wacky conspiracy theories are the subject of this investigative documentary chronicling a skeptic (Blake Freeman) and a gullible geezer’s (Leroy Tessina) cross-country quest for the truth about aliens, psychics and the paranormal.
The Last Days On Mars (PG-13 for brief profanity) High attrition-rate horror flick about a crew of astronauts who mysteriously perish one-by-one while collecting specimens on the surface of Mars. Co-starring Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, Elias Koteas and Olivia Williams.
Lenny Cooke (Unrated) Diminished hoop dreams documentary about a Brooklyn-born, high school basketball phenom who never got a chance to play in the NBA after declaring himself eligible for the draft instead of attending college.
Live At The Foxes Den (Unrated) Midlife crisis drama about a jaded corporate attorney (Jackson Rathbone) who, after a night spent carousing, impulsively quits his job at a prestigious law firm to pursue a new career as a saloon singer. With Jocelin Donahue, Jack Holmes, Brian Doyle-Murray and Elliott Gould.
Merry Christmas (Unrated) Ensemble comedy about nine cash-strapped New Yorkers who agree to forgo their annual holiday outing in Aspen in favor of participating in a murder mystery weekend in Pennsylvania. Co-starring Alexandra Stewart,Antony Langdon, Tibor Feldman, Wally Dunn and Angelique Cinelu.
Swerve (R for violence, profanity, sexuality and nudity) Aussie crime thriller about a Good Samaritan (David Lyons) who ends up on the run from a ruthless hit man (Travis Hitman) and a crooked cop (Jason Clarke) after stopping to help a gun moll (Emma Booth) with a suitcase of cash at the scene of a car accident which claimed the life of her mobster beau. Support cast features Roy Billing, Vince Colosimo and Andy Anderson.
Twice Born (R for violence, rape, sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use) Flashback drama about a widow’s (Penelope Cruz) reflections upon returning home to Bosnia with her teenage son (Pietro Castellitto) for the first time since barely escaping war-torn Sarajevo alive when he was an infant. With Emile Hirsch, Adnan Haskovic and Saadet Aksoy. (In Italian, English and Bosnian with subtitles)
White Reindeer (Unrated) Maudlin character study, set in suburban Virginia, where we find a grieving woman (Anna Margaret Hollyman) grappling to make sense of life in the wake of an unexpected tragedy at Christmastime. Cast includes Joe Swanberg, Lydia Hyslop and Laura Lemar-Goldsborough.