Brutal ‘Out of the Furnace’ Leaves AFI Fest Jubilant But Shell-Shocked

Scott Cooper’s dark drama, which stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson, brought a bold and violent story to the Chinese Theatre

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In a year of dark films about the dark side of America, you can add Scott Cooper’s “Out of the Furnace” to a roster that already includes “12 Years a Slave,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Lone Survivor,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and, presumably, “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The film premiered at the AFI Fest in Hollywood on Saturday night, pummeling the Chinese Theatre audience with a bold and brutal story of violence, revenge and family bonds set in an economically ravaged factory town clearly meant to stand in for much of America in recent years.

One guest at the post-screening reception compared it to a Bruce Springsteen song (maybe “Youngstown” or “Atlantic City”), but the body count in “Out of the Furnace” is significantly higher and the blood flows a lot more freely.

(In fact, Cooper told Kris Tapley that he was listening to the Springsteen albums “Nebraska” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” from which “Atlantic City” and “Youngstown” come, when he began work on the film.)

Also read: Christian Bale Battles Woody Harrelson in New ‘Out of the Furnace’ Trailer (Video)

“We made sure that there’s lots of alcohol afterwards, because you’re certainly going to need a drink after this movie,” said Relativity chief Ryan Kavanaugh when he introduced the film, which he said he he’s “more proud of than anything we’ve ever done, and I don’t say that lightly.”

(His previous work as a producer include “The Fighter,” “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”)

The film touches on poverty, drug addiction and the post-traumatic stress of an overworked military, and second-time director Cooper introduced it by saying, “I wanted to shine a light on what was happening in America over this troubled last five years.”

Starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as brothers in Braddock, Pennsylvania, and featuring Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and others,  “Out of the Furnace” isn’t exactly an awards movie, though the performances are uniformly excellent – and, as one viewer said afterwards, “Nobody can play a crazy motherf—er like Woody Harrelson.”

out-of-the-furnace(Harrelson, who plays a particularly vicious mountain man, was at the time just outside the party in the, um, smoking section.)

For his part, Kavanaugh explicitly compared the film to Michael Cimino’s Best Picture winner from 1978: “It isn’t just ‘The Deer Hunter,’ but ‘The Deer Hunter’ one over.”

That “one over” may push this violent drama into genre territory, as opposed to making it a true successor to Cimino’s film – or maybe, as Cooper suggested in a post-screening chat with TheWrap, it’s just that we’re in a different era now.

“I think Steven Soderbergh was right when he gave that talk in San Francisco recently, and said that in the post 9/11 era movies got safe, because people didn’t want to be provoked,” said the actor-turned-director, whose debut “Crazy Heart” won two Oscars, including one for lead actor Jeff Bridges. “I hope we can get back to the kind of movies people were making in the ’70s.”

Also read: ‘American Hustle’ Sneak Peek: Christian Bale’s Comb-over, Amy Adams’ Cleavage

And as partiers lined up at the bar and talked about the brutal punch his movie packed, Cooper hoped that his film would resonate far beyond one jubilant (if shell-shocked) after-party.

“It’s a movie that you have to process,” he said. “Hopefully it will linger.”