Directed By: Scott Cooper
Written By: Scott Cooper & Brad Ingelsby
Cinematography By: Masanobu Takayanagi
Editor: David Rosenbloom 

Cast: Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Forrest Whitaker, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shephard, Tom Bower, Boyd Holbrook

Russell and his younger brother Rodney live in the economically-depressed Rust Belt, and have always dreamed of escaping and finding better lives. But when a cruel twist of fate lands Russell in prison, his brother becomes involved with one of the most violent and ruthless crime rings in the Northeast – a mistake that will cost him everything. Once released, Russell must choose between his own freedom, or risk it all to seek justice for his brother.

The film feels overdrawn at times. Meant To feel deeper then it actually is as the plot is rather simple and basic. Cut and dry really all that surrounds it seems to be meant to shape and smooth it out. While covered In dirt making it gritty and it seems to gain characters and depth as it goes along.

The film aspires and succeeds at being more of a slice of life tale that involves mild intrigue into the underworld with some seemingly noirish details. That has mystery and a certain element of revenge

It spends time at first with some intrigue though doesn’t feel like much changes yet helps fill in some details later.

I like the feel that it gives detail to a moral man. Who appears to be religious and thankfully the film doesn’t drown you in his beliefs, nor let symbolism overcome the story. Not any conflicted drama over morals, decisions and responsibility. It has some shading yet gets right to the point. Maybe too simply?

It’s a shame as Forest Whitaker an Oscar winner, here has such a small yet important role that appears more thankless then anything and is hardly a featured one.

Woody Harrelson really steals the movie as he brings electricity to any scene he is in. Making a truly scary screen presence and villain. I only wish e was in a film that served his purposes more. More or less his film feels like it was more written around his character as the first scene introduces us to him and seems here to illustrate his brutality and how it come from out of nowhere. Filling in the rest of the story around him, leaving him to be more of a secret weapon. He is really good never had he played so dispicible and scary a character who can go from 0 to 100 in seconds. He is like a mad dog. He comes off stupid but is scarily smart. More out of necessity and ambition. He haunts the film and once he appears know it isn’t going to end well for whoever crosses his path. He is like death only he makes the decisions and on a whim. Whichever serves him best

Viggo Mortensen and Billy Bob Thornton was first approached about the role that eventually went to Woody Harrelson.

Willem Dafoe seems to be the new Christopher Walken. As many outlandish roles and letting the wardrobe do half the work. He is a good presence and like Walken enjoyable and solid in the roles he takes showing he just like acting in various roles as they are rarely the same.

Zoe Saldana only seems to be here as an impressive name to add I the list of stars. As she is pivotal with little to do more of a symbol. Really the thankless girlfriend role.

I can see why Christian Bale would be attracted to this role. As it is commercial Redemptive underdog type role, but offers up dramatic opportunities to create a character. Scott Cooper rewrote the script and the character of Russell Baze specifically for Christian Bale even though the two had never met and Cooper didn’t know whether the actor would take on the role or not.

Eddie Vedder wrote a number of songs for the film, but director Scott Cooper thought they were too perfect and powerful, which could pull the audience out of the story, so they mutually decided to leave them out of the film and unreleased.

Channing Tatum, Taylor Kitsch, Max Irons and Garrett Hedlund were considered to play Christian Bale’s brother. Casey Affleck was cast. The cast includes five actors who were nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor: Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe, Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck. Bale is the only who won the award in the category. Forest Whitaker won as a leading actor.

I wrote this review like I have never seen a film before. I know what is expected and what needs to happen to fulfill expectations and effort in a new package. It’s just a matter of fact film.

What works here is that Christian bale’s character has already been locked up, judged and made to suffer. Once his brother goes missing it seems like just another misfortune to wallow in, but in seeking out what happened. He finds himself seeking justice which he beloved in and lead him to go to jail.

Now the law seems powerless. While he tries to figure this out. We see him having to infiltrate this backwoods organization and he is no trained killer or some government official with training. Nor does he have a budget to afford surveillance and hire accomplices he is pretty much blue collar and on his own. Unlike his brothers character who would seem more the natural candidate to be an action hero. Based on background.

The film has a familiarity due to certain themes of mystery and revenge, but at least it tries to give the material a depth. That involves characters you can understand and come off as organic. It has the theme of redemption heavily weighing on it.


I Like that it wasn’t something intentional more circumstances that lead to wrong places at the wrong time getting in the middle of a vengeance more intended for someone else.

In preview screenings the ending was different as during the final scene more police cars arrive and when Bale shot Harrelson, Bale was shot also by police officers while Whitaker was trying to stop them from shooting him without success.


The screenplay is born out of a spec script by Brad Ingelsby called “The Low Dweller”. It came to Scott Cooper’s attention with Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio attached as producers. Cooper rewrote the script, investing it with his own experiences, notably growing up in Appalachia and losing a sibling at an early age.

The film isn’t as brutal as you would come to believe. Though embark with one last fight, con, job, days to retirement.

The director Scott Cooper certainly had an eye for framing shot and knows how to tell a story. Just wish he had a better one to tell as this seems like an attempt at a genre mainstream tale with flows of a more aristic temperance. It feels more like a tale adapted from a better book. Then what is on display here.

Grade: B-

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