Sunday, 22 December 2013


What do you find when you dig up dirt? More dirt, a monotonous multitude of dirt, down to the deepest depths that you can dig to. In independent film, it's known as grit, and the grittier the movie, the more authentic, and thus the better. But grit is dry and unfulfilling, hard, dusty and indigestible - you can't catch ahold of it, and you can't consume it. There's nowt but grit in Scott Cooper's new grittier-than-grit gritty drama, which makes it dry indeed, monotonous, unfulfilling. He has his wishes set on elevating his humdrum story into a grand, tragic discourse on the nature of masculinity and of revenge, but then I had my wishes set on something similar - it didn't make it happen. In pursuit of a brave new take on such violent revenge narratives, Cooper doesn't force the suspense nor the brutality which comes as standard with the genre; instead, he allows them to seep slowly out of the film's first hour, as it edges ever closer to the point where, well, something significant happens, I suppose. This is not the right approach with the material (Cooper's own, alongside Brad Inglesby), which needed directorial flair in its (preferably extended) later stages to enliven it, not repetitive meditation over its dreary and cliched expository scenes. Cooper's film progresses listlessly, dispensing with subplots that have a vast amount more dramatic potential than its entirely predictable, underdeveloped, and even implausible concerns. These are not trivial matters - the rampant destitution in rural America, the emotional state of soldiers returning from war, police relations with thuggish hick gangs in the local countryside. But there's no perceptible insight into these matters, which Cooper is content to exploit for all their cinematic worth regardless, as he attempts to turn this drab, dirty B-movie, scarcely better than the typical film showing in a small-town drive-in, such as the one at Out of the Furnace's start, into a bona fide Greek tragedy.

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