Bare-knuckle melodrama in ‘Out of the Furnace’

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Out of the Furnace

A twitchily well-acted melodrama of burnt-out lives, family ties, and backwoods revenge, Scott Cooper’s “Out of the Furnace” offers a bleak vision of America’s rural economic woes before flattening out into a routine thriller about good men doing bad things.

It starts promisingly, with a hellacious scene of Woody Harrelson beating a man nearly to death at a drive-in movie. The main drama, though, involves small-town steelworker Christian Bale trying to stay on the right side of the law while his troubled Iraq vet brother Casey Affleck descends into the bare-knuckle fight circuit. A strong cast (Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard) can’t save a ponderous script from losing its way. As a movie, it plays like a lesser Bruce Springsteen song.

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