A revenge mission doesn’t play well when you don’t care about who’s avenging what and why.
Christian Bale and Casey Affleck lead as the Baze brothers. Bale’s Russell is the older of the two and does his best to sustain a standup lifestyle, dedicated to his job at the local steel mill, his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), and his family. Affleck’s Rodney, on the other hand, opts to enlist in the army in hopes of finding something to live for outside of Braddock, Pennsylvania. However, after four tours in Iraq and only mental and physical scars to show for it, Rodney winds up back home competing as a bare-knuckle boxer to payoff his debts. When Rodney doesn’t return from a fight in Harlan DeGroat’s (Woody Harrelson) territory, Russell takes it upon himself to head up into the notorious Ramapo Mountains and bring his brother home.
Rather than kick things off by strolling through everyday life in Braddock, “Out of the Furnace” runs with a bleaker introduction, showing off the wrath of its antagonist. The choice to screen “Midnight Meat Train” is a little distracting, but the drive-in movie location is a novel and dynamic setting, that adds an extra layer to Harlan’s tantrum via bystanders’ reactions. Harlan’s behavior is vicious to the point of being disconcerting, but it does function as a highly effective opening hook.
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Proper pacing is a wonderful thing, especially when you’ve got a movie about a hyper intelligent rogue CIA agent wreaking havoc with some potentially devastating information. Move too slowly and you run the risk of bogging moviegoers down with details that could ultimately become too cumbersome to sort out. Then again, move too quickly and you might not leave enough time for an audience to absorb all the necessary details. No, Safe House doesn’t nestle itself near the happy medium, rather veers towards the quicker side, but leaves just enough breathing room to give the story some weight and still solidify it as a thrill ride.
Working for the CIA sounds like a pretty cool gig, right? Well, apparently before you get to the secret agent stuff, you’ve got to babysit a safe house and Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has been stuck with that dull duty one month too many. Meanwhile, the CIA’s most notorious traitor, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington), puts an end to his decade-long hideout and is sent to Matt’s Cape Town safe house.
Matt’s shocked and honored when one of the most brilliant and illusive men in the world is put under his care, but is caught even more off guard when his facility is ambushed by men after Frost. The two narrowly escape and it’s up to Matt to get Frost to a new secure location. However, Frost may be turned, but he still retains all the ability that made him one of the CIA’s best and his manipulation tactics slowly eat away at Matt’s steadfastness.
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