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Out of the Furnace - Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Tom Bower, Zoë Saldana, Sam Shepard

Out of the Furnace: when his kid brother disappears after getting involved in redneck bare-knuckle boxing, his stoic brother takes the law into his own hands. The acting is nothing short of stupendous; everyone is in full on beast mode; although Casey Affleck does his trademark mumbling incoherency shtick – which is becoming pretty tiresome / irksome. Despite the array of colossal performances topped by Bale and Harrelson, the film is completely marred by a time-bendingly-slow pace, which makes it seem like a 4-hour affair. It’d be like watching Aryton Senna do a Formula 1 circuit in on a mobility scooter. When you’re filling an already lengthy movie with unnecessarily long aerial takes of a car driving through woods, and a time-consuming barely relevant sub-plots (like drink driving) – your editor needs to take a running jump. As the buildup to the finale is so agonisingly drawn out, the end – although satisfying – is ultimately underwhelming. Despite being a more grim version of the boxing sub-plot from Snatch, this it’s a gritty portrayal of a broken American steeltown community in decline. A very Eastwoodian sleeper, but only because it makes you want to sleep…

Score: 5/10

 

The Killer Inside Me: American Noir set in the 1950s – a chilling character study of a sociopathic sheriff. Pretty much every review focuses and questions the two violent scenes so here goes: in my opinion the violence is shocking, but isn’t just a cheap shock; it’s to help us get further into Lou’s head, showing the audience that he has absolutely no boundaries or morals. Is the film misogynistic? Yes, but that’s because Lou is, and at least it doesn’t glamourise violence like so many other flicks. Beatings aside, whiny Casey Affleck fits the lead role perfectly, and considering he’s in every scene he never becomes boring, stale or overbearing. His believability and end-to-end range really shine through here. The rest of the cast are good, but all feel like bit-parts. Winterbottom’s style is pretty slick and although it’s clearly well-directed, aspects like the offbeat soundtrack and try-hard Noir vibe weary thin by the end. There are also some very, very dark bits of humour usually through Lou’s misunderstanding of normal people, but it probably wasn’t funny to most. Then there’s the ending, which for me was so ridiculous and out of tone with the rest of the story that I’m 95% sure it was a dream. The walkouts through the screening emphasised that this isn’t for everyone, mainly because it’s probably the closest you’ll get to feeling like a serial killer: we hear Lou’s every thought & justification and see both his flashbacks and events in his perspective. You will watch some bits through your fingers, but as much as it’s divided critics, it’s probably the single best example of a director harnessing the power of cinema to manipulate his audience in years. This is our generation’s, much more effective, Henry: portrait of a Serial Killer.

Score: 7.5/10

The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford: The title pretty much sums up this film – twice as long as it had to be. At 2:40 I thought there’d be a lot to get through… this wasn’t the case… and it took about an hour for the first good bit of story to develop. Genuinely felt that every scene was at least 30 seconds longer than it had to be. Capturing the 1880’s details was done well, but to the point that it was difficult to understand ye olde dialogue. The best thing about the film was the short bursts of narration. Casey Affleck / Pitt did a great job of acting, but Affleck’s whiney voice started grinding my gears after about an hour. There’s also a few great bits of cinematography / imagery. Should have been great, but was mauled by the pace.

Score: 3/10