Out of the Furnace, a story of working class turmoil and frustration, has critics singing its praises so far. That’s not unexpected – starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, the movie boasts plenty of talent. Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Defoe, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard all give their best in Out of the Furnace, which tells the story of Russell Baze (Christian Bale) taking justice into his own hands after the disappearance of his younger brother Rodney (Affleck). It’s set to the background of economic decline and social struggle, making this a film about the dark, often ignored side of the American dream.

Christian Bale, Out of the Furnace
Bale's steady and nuanced performance has impressed the critics.

The LA Times’ Betsey Shakey is impressed both with the “lean script,” which “gives a face to the all too familiar struggle” as well as the strong performances of the all-star cast. “Bale and Affleck are as nuanced as Harrelson is unhinged,” the review notes “It is among the finest work done by all three.”

Watch the Out of the Furnace trailer below.

Variety’s Scott Foundas agrees, describing the film as “a starkly powerful drama that in some ways feels like an Iraq-era bookend to “The Deer Hunter,” with bare-knuckle boxing substituted for Russian roulette.”

Besides the performances, Foundas’ review also notes the atmosphere that director Scott Cooper manages to create through the film’s slow buildup. “The dead-end mood of the place” makes the film a less audience-friendly, but more poignant than some of Cooper’s other work. Adding to this is the “violent, unpredictable force of life itself” which helps this screenplay stand out, according to Foundas.

Woody Harrelson, Out of the Furnace
Harrelson, on the other hand, comes across as wild and unhinged in just the right way.

The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis pegges the film as an all-American story, stripped of any glamour and blind optimism. “It’s a heavy, solemn tale of blood ties that turns into a melodramatic gusher filled with abstractions about masculinity, America and violence,” the review explains, not neglecting to heap yet more praise on Bale, Affleck and Harrelson (there might be a pattern here) for grounding Out of the Furnace’s abstract ideas in gritty, nuanced and very realistic characters.

Next page: How did Out of the Furnace do on Rotten Tomatoes?