DF-00425.CR2A couple of bad moments can’t diminish the good elements that Out of the Furnace has going for it, just as co-writer and director Scott Cooper brought drama to Crazy Heart that kept its own flaws from holding it back. It figures a director who believed Colin Farrell could act like a country singer then can’t always make the correct choices during a finale now, but Cooper actualizes characters using actors as effectively as he did before, Farrell notwithstanding. Although he has his hands full with an all-star cast, he concentrates on everybody here, and finds aspects to the film’s characters that are intimate enough to connect to them, even after their destinies coincide in a desperate knot.

After an encounter that allows antagonist Curtis (Woody Harrelson) to demonstrate everything being a bad guy entails, the film continues onto its good guys: Brothers Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck), who apart from growing up in Braddock, Pa., are coming to terms with their dwindling chances of escaping it. Among the most important acts in Rodney’s existence is his departure for Iraq, where his duties during battle brought him the cruelest images he’s ever seen, along with a cut that brings attention to the brutal facts of his experience. Although he isn’t destitute enough to get a job alongside his brother at the mill, he’s available to care for Dad with his uncle Red (Sam Shepard), even if it’s disheartening to see him lying on what’s likely to become his deathbed.

Life’s a bit better for Rodney, considering he has girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana) to keep him happy. After an auto accident gets him behind bars, the isolation Lena faces drives her to find a different boyfriend in Wesley (Forrest Whitaker), a cop she commits herself to – something she clarifies for Rodney during a discussion that has both of them crying. In the meantime, Rodney’s bookie (Willam Dafoe) enters him in fistfights he fixes – the kind of affair Curtis gets involved in all the time.

As for the climax, the action holds up, but the suspense comes across as far-fetched, all the way up to a moment centering on three characters, one of which has another at gunpoint and bears a dilemma he could’ve avoided by allowing the cops to do their job. As a matter of fact, the beginning of the chase kicking it off brings to mind the advice George Clooney delivered to his hostage in From Dusk Till Dawn: “I got six little friends,” cautioned Clooney, “and they can all run faster than you can.”

All the same, everybody carries the burdens of their characters carefully, backing them up with the honesty they deserve. Forgiving a film like this for a few bumps in the road is easy – if the lives these characters have aren’t ideal, it figures the film they exist in isn’t, either.