There are certain buzz words that worry me when they’re used to describe a film. “Quirky” is one. “Gritty” is another.
It’s not that I have anything against grit (quirk, however, can take a hike), I just think that if your goal at the outset is to make a “gritty” film, you’re doing something wrong. “Grittiness” should be an organic byproduct of the film’s journey, not the destination itself.
Which brings me to Out of the Furnace. It’s directed by Scott Cooper, who did Crazy Heart, which I loved. That film was gritty, too, in its own way. It had a very credible sense of the seedy life of a has-been musician. It also had great music, that surprising central relationship, and a wonderful performance by Jeff Bridges.
Out of the Furnace, on the other hand, simply doesn’t pass the smell test for me. Its grit feels self-conscious, self-congratulatory. Worse still, it doesn’t have anything new to say.
The film starts with a scene that sets up Woody Harrelson’s Harlan DeGroat as one scary dude. I liked the backdrop of the scene—a drive-in movie theater, as a B horror film plays on the screen—but the details felt overly familiar. The woman he’s with doesn’t realize...