Scott Cooper made his directorial debut with Crazy Heart (2009), a film that won Jeff Bridges an Oscar for Best Actor. For his sophomore effort Out of the Furnace (2013), Cooper once again manages to get the very best from his star-studded cast, but whilst there is admiration to be taken for foregoing a traditional revenge story, the well-intentioned narrative is sadly short on momentum.
Set in small-town Pennsylvania, Out of the Furnace centres on Russell Baze (Christian Bale), a virtuous blue-collar man who takes care of his dying Father and looks out for his little brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Iraq war veteran. An untimely accident sees Russell go to jail, and he returns to a girlfriend who’s moved on and a Father who has passed away. Worse still, his younger sibling has fallen into the world of bare-knuckle fighting in a bid to pay off his gambling debts. On the hunt for more lucrative bouts, Rodney begs bookie John Petty (Willem Dafoe) to set up a fight in the backwoods of New Jersey run by psychotic hillbilly Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). When they don’t return and the police prove reluctant to get involved, Russell takes matters into his own hands.
A century ago, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote ‘A Princess of Mars’, the first novel in his Barsoom series. Since then it has gone on to inspire a whole host of films, Star Wars and Avatar among them. Fast forward 100 years later and super fan of the books Andrew Stanton, famous for animated flicks WALL-E and Finding Nemo, has been given a $300 million budget and the task of bringing Burroughs’ vision to life in his first live action feature. Is it a success, or has the originality of Burroughs’ story been bled out in the years it’s taken John Carter to get to the big screen?
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