American Industrialist Films  

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America has a history of delivering content with a setting that moulds the film they are in – the backdrop of a rural community, whereby the character works in a laborious job which complements their blue-collar lifestyle. These settings usually set the groundwork for the events of the film – or television show – providing motives, contrasts and anxieties for character at the forefront. To mark the release of Out of the Furnace, which is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 2nd June 2014 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, below we count down ten examples of the American Industrial in film and television over the past few decades.

Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Bob Rafelson’s American drama featured Jack Nicholson in a memorable lead role as Bobby Dupea, an oil rig worker who the audience are led to believe leads – and has always led – a rootless blue-collar existence. However, when Bobby learns that his father is dying, he heads to the home he grew up in where it is revealed his current existence belies his illustrious upbringing.

Blue Collar (1978)
This film follows a trio of Detroit auto workers, played by Harvey Keitel, Richard Pryor and Yaphet Kotto, who all become disillusioned by their trade. Fed by their mistreatment from superior forces, they formulate a plan to rob a safe at union headquarters. Directed by Paul Schrader (in what was reported to be an extremely troubled shoot), Blue Collar was filmed on-location at vehicle manufacturer Checker Plant and Ford River Rouge Complex.

The Deer Hunter (1978)
Michael Cimino’s mammoth Vietnam classic is a staple on many top films list, and is filled with a numerous amount of emotive and shocking scenes to boot. The film begins in Clairton, a small working class town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, where we are introduced to a trio of Russian American steelworkers (each played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage). This clash of industrialisation and war-stricken sights of Vietnam provide an alarming contrast.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
Perhaps best remembered for a star turn from Richard Gere, An Officer and a Gentleman tells the story of US Navy aviation officer Zack Mayo who locks head with his drill instructor in his aim to become a fully-fledged aviator.

Silkwood (1983)
Mike Nichols directed Silkwood, a drama co-written by the late Nora Ephron. The film stars Meryl Streep as the real-life figure Karen Silkwood, a nuclear power whistleblower who investigated the alleged wrongdoings at the plutonium plant where she worked. She was later found dead after a suspicious car accident.

Cinderella Man (2005)
Ron Howard’s biopic of boxing champion James J. Braddock stars Russell Crowe in the lead role, and is set in the time of the Great Depression.  Forced to endure manual labour as a longshoreman (the loading and unloading of ships), the film is as much about the fall of industrialisation as it is Braddock’s rise from the ashes to emerge as a heavyweight champion.

Friday Night Lights  (2006-2011)
Set in the fictional town of Dillon, Peter Berg’s much-loved television show focuses on the drama surrounding a high school football team. With Dillon the small close-knit community it is, throughout the five seasons, the small rural Texan back drop his used to address numerous issues facing contemporary American culture – one of which is the severe lack of economic opportunities.  A 2004 film preceded the film, as well as a novel by H.G. Bissinger.

The Fighter (2010)
Living in Lowell, (a small town in Massachusetts), like numerous other films about fighting, the characters in The Fighter are provided with no alternative choice but to pursue this career; David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning film recounts the story of professional boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale).  Eklund’s drug problems and spell in jail, as well as the background of Amy Adams’ love interest Charlene (a former college athlete who dropped out to become a bartender) highlight the character’s blue-collar past.

Winter’s Bone (2010)
This American independent drama from director Debra Granik features a star-making turn from Jennifer Lawrence  as Ree Dolly, a teenage girl forced to protect her family from eviction in the rural Ozark Mountains of the central United States (a highland region covering parts of Missouri and Arkansas). Attempting to locate her missing father in a dangerous environment, through Ree we are led into a world of self-sufficiency, poverty and the pervasive underworld of illegal meth labs

Out of the Furnace (2013)
Scott Cooper’s thriller stars Christian Bale as Russell Baze who must protect his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) when he becomes embroiled in a murky underworld led by ruthless drug dealer, Harlan DeGroat – played by Woody Harrelson. Set in the borough of North Braddock, Baze works in the local steel mill with the mill’s furnace representing his attempts at living a life on the straight and narrow. The film’s title is a play on the phrase ‘out of the furnace and into the fire’.

Out of the Furnace is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 2nd June 2014 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.


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