OUT OF THE FURNACE - Christian Bale as Russell Baze

This tragic revenge drama about a pair of blue-collar brothers battered by fate in a dying rust-belt town is almost unrelentingly grim, but the cast’s powerhouse performances keep you watching, as does the film’s vividly atmospheric sense of place.

Marking a distinct change of mood for writer-director Scott Cooper following 2009’s country-western music drama Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace finds Christian Bale’s doggedly loyal, morally upright steel worker striving to stand by his reckless younger brother, Iraq war veteran Casey Affleck, after he gets entangled with a violently psychopathic backwoods crime boss – played with terrifying menace by Woody Harrelson – who cooks up crystal meth and stages bare-knuckle fights in the Appalachian hills. You just know things will end badly.

Bale, Affleck and Harrelson are mesmerising in the leading roles, but the supporting cast is terrific, too, with Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard, Zoë Saldana and Forest Whitaker all making an impact in a film whose Pennsylvania steel town setting and mood of tragic inevitability recall The Deer Hunter – with the trauma of war in Iraq in place of Vietnam and bare-knuckle boxing instead of Russian roulette as a symbol of violent despair.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 90 mins. Director Scott Cooper.

Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

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