A startling opening scene serves notice of the violence that lies ahead of us. At a drive-in movie theatre we are introduced to hillbilly Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a meth kingpin and vicious lowlife, as he shoves a hot dog down the throat of his date and violently beats an innocent bystander who happens to come to the distressed woman's assistance.

Violence runs throughout the film as Scott Cooper, the critically acclaimed writer and director of 'Crazy Heart,' brings us a drama about family, fate, circumstance and justice. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) leads a dead-end life, he works a meaningless steel mill job all day, and cares for his terminally ill father at night. His brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) who has returned home from Iraq, is lured into a shadowy underworld of bare-knuckle boxing. Desperate to make money that will liberate him from a mountain of debt Rodney goes against the wishes of his manager John (Willem Dafoe) and agrees to take a fall in a fight arranged by Harlan DeGroat. When his brother disappears and the police fail to solve the case, Russell puts his life at risk in order to seek justice for his brother.

If you've watched the trailer you might think that you are in for an action packed film, a sort of "Death Wish" meets "Deliverance". What in fact you get for your money is a film that's so slow that it almost stalls. Not one character is likeable and Cooper gives us a film that is so disjointed that you will have to fill in large parts of the plot yourself, for instance, after Russell has a road accident, with no explanation, no arrest or trial, he ends up in prison. Characters are so underused, in particular Zoe Salanda who plays Russell's girlfriend and Forest Whitaker as police officer Wesley Barnes, that it makes you wonder if large parts of the film ended up on the cutting room floor. Bale, who was so good in the recent American Hustle, and the rest of the cast mumble their way through the film, making it at times hard to actually make out what their saying.

Without giving anything away, as "Out of the Furnace" somewhat early on suggests an inevitable showdown between Russell and Harlan, when it eventually does come, and a lot of people will be checking their watches for it coming, Cooper gives us an ending that's so ludicrous you will be scratching your head as the credits role.

If you want to see Bale at the top of his game go and see "American Hustleā€¯ and catch this on DVD.

Out Of The Furnace (15)

1h 56m

Director: Scott Cooper
Starring: Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck

UK Release: Wednesday 29th January 2014

Out Of The Furnace - "Teach Me A lesson" Clip

Out Of The Furnace - "Teach Me A lesson" Clip