Month: March 2014

Out of the Furnace – Review


Following his country music biopic Crazy Heart, Scott Cooper continues his indie movie trend with Out of the Furnace. The film is an attempt to follow in the footsteps of similar titles such as Killing Them Softly and The Place Beyond the Pines, but it overdoes its efforts to reflect a blue-collar storyline and ultimately the film’s magnificent performances save it.

Set in 2008 and the rotting steel town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, Christian Bale plays Russell Baze, who is stuck in a dead end job at the local steel factory. Early on we witness him kill two people in a drink driving accident which he inevitably serves time for. His brother Rodney, played by Casey Affleck, is a war vet mentally damaged by incidents he has witnessed in Iraq. After struggling to come to terms with a blue-collar job, Rodney delves into the bare-knuckle fight business, which leads him to an involvement with some dangerous hillbillies from New Jersey headed by Woody Harrelson.

Although his character lacks enough emotional fatigue given numerous incidents in the film, Bale handles his role extremely well throughout. It is a shame therefore that we do not get to see more of his relationship with Zoe Saldana’s character, Lena. Nevertheless, Affleck also gives a powerful performance, nailing the intensity and drama of his scenes, and Harrelson offers himself to be as frightening as ever in the villain role. Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker are also wasted along with Saldana, but the film boasts an impressive cast nonetheless and they certainly pull through despite the movie’s downfalls.

In addition to a powerful on-screen presence, the film is shot beautifully, displaying a number of shots that fully reflect the working class lifestyle of the town, it’s peoples and as a result, the atmosphere certainly hits home.

However, the focus on its art-house style is too much and the storyline consequently suffers. The film never really takes off and is simply mundane and unspectacular. The impressive overtones fail to make up for its typically clichéd trend and as a result the film lacks originality.

7/10 #WebbersRatings

Hancock and Wasted Potential


I want to revisit Peter Berg’s Hancock from 2008. I saw it again for the umpteenth time last night and it’s a film that seriously bugs me. Now when I say ‘bugs me’, I’m not suggesting I hate the film and in fact to some extent I quite enjoy it. No, what really frustrates me is how it follows the classic case of Hollywood having a great idea for a movie but then throwing millions of dollars at it simply to please the audience.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Hancock, played by Will Smith, is a superhero. He possesses all the typical superhero traits – he can fly, he’s got super strength etc. etc. But the twist is that he is an alcoholic bum who everyone dislikes until he saves the life of a PR agent, played by Jason Bateman, who decides he wants to turn Hancock into the reliable, friendly superhero he should be. There are a number of other twists that play out, but that is the general gist of the film.

The start and first hour or so of the film is by far the best part of it; it’s brilliant in fact. Its original storyline has a promising mix of comedy, action and backstory, distancing itself away from typical superhero flicks in which there seems to be constant action and blowing up of things.

However, the final half an hour of Hancock is just that – and it is mightily disappointing. As mentioned earlier, it seems as if those working on the film had all this money in front of them, wondering what to do with it. So of course they got lazy and blew everything up, had people flying around and into each other and constant fighting, losing everything that was so great about the first hour of the film.

I know this is the case with a number of Hollywood action movies and picking Hancock in particular is slightly harsh (it did just happened to be what I watched last night). As soon as the budget increases, the need for predictable, tame action sequences does too, throwing it all on crowd pleasing special effects.

In terms of superhero movies, you only need to see how successful Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise was to understand how sticking to the art-house roots can pay off. In this particular case, Hancock looked set to follow a similar trail with a promising opening but completely lost its way in the last half hour or so.

Hancock was by no means a flop. It made a healthy profit, did well amongst audiences and isn’t a terrible film by any means. However, Berg could have made this into a seriously impressive film if him and his team hadn’t fallen to typical Hollywood multimillion-dollar action movie pressure. There are a number of movies that have taken a similar stance, but its huge potential that it missed out on was bitterly disappointing for me. Not so good job.

What about you?

Did you enjoy Hancock?

What other films do you think wasted their potential?