Out of the furnace and into the fire. It’s a common expression meaning going from a bad situation to a yet worse one. Such is the case for the two brothers at the center of this rather bleak picture. See, the title isn’t just an obvious metaphor for their grim, rust belt surroundings, but a nod to the idea that things can always get worse. Around here, the American Dream may be dead, but it isn’t done creating collateral damage.
While nearly relentlessly sad, the film does have a sense of justice, but it’s not one bound to make you smile. The characters go through so much pain, by the end you feel numb, and almost more relieved to see the credits roll than to see that justice dispensed.
This is not to day it’s a bad film. The absolutely stellar cast delivers in spades, and it’s a testament to the actors that they were so willing to overcome the script’s weak points and leave us with something memorable. And for all its grit, it really is something to see from a visual standpoint, perfectly capturing a Midwestern ghost town, as run-down, ragged and forgotten as its inhabitants. By the time it turns into a revenge film, it takes on almost a Western quality, representing elements of both ideals and locations lost to the sands of time.
Also, it features Pearl Jam’s “Release” in the opening and closing scenes. That earns a star or two on its own.