Rustbelt America has been in the spotlight as part of President Trump’s pledge to make America great again and this second feature from Scott Cooper (who later went on to direct Black Mass) takes a look at the dark underbelly of a section of US society starved of investment and dependent on decaying heavy industry for employment.
This is a bleak exploration of male behaviour shown through the choices open to two Pennsylvania brothers who are left without work or opportunity: one is a time-served convict (Christian Bale); the other a psychologically scarred Iraq war veteran (Casey Affleck).
Bale is the stoic grafter who will do any job that pays the rent, while Affleck’s character is a self-destructive loner whose resentment against a country that has failed to support him since his return from the war manifests itself in violence, illegal bare-knuckle fights and gambling. Events take a dark turn when he agrees to fight for a hillbilly drug lord (Woody Harrelson) to pay off his debts.
This not altogether positive picture of the former industrial heart of America makes for a violent, sobering but hugely watchable film. Though, portraying the Pennsylvania mountains as police no-go areas run by drug dealing criminals and armed militias ultimately undermine its credibility.
Also stars Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe.
Out of the Furnace – Monday 9.00pm on Film4