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This is the first summer in nearly a decade that we haven't had a Christian Bale blockbuster to look forward to on the horizon. From the time he spent playing Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy to his ill-fated stint as John Connor in Terminator: Salvation, Bale was balancing the kind of dark films that made him famous with very big popcorn fare, and he made it look good. But it was hard not to see that the guy seemed pretty ready to hang up Batman's cowl, and now that he's officially free of Gotham, his next effort will be something familiar from the other side of the Bale coin-- a dark, dramatic indie called Out of The Furnace.

Directed by Crazy Heart's Scott Cooper and shot on location in the depressed former steel town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, Out of the Furnace aims to capture some of the blue-collar grit of the film that earned Bale his Oscar, The Fighter, but with its own rough and tumble criminal twist. In the first-look article in USA Today, which included the image of Bale you see above, Bale talks about his character Russell Baze, who goes head-to-head with the town's criminal underworld while searching for his brother (Casey Affleck), an Iraq War veteran who has gone missing. Here's how Bale describes him, basically as the opposite of a classic action hero:

"Russell is not of that personality, nor does he wish to be,.But he finds himself having to confront these people in order to do the right thing. He's only got his own fortitude and will power, nothing else."

One of "these people" whom Russell must confront is played by Woody Harrelson, playing a criminal in a total spin away from his lighthearted public persona, or even the goodhearted Haymitch of The Hunger Games. Here's an image of Harrelson and Bale together. You know a guy is trouble when he wears a vest over his naked chest, right?

Out of the Furnace is due to arrive in theaters on November 27, in the thick of the awards season rush but opposite some decidedly different competition-- the Jason Statham/James Franco thriller Homefront, Disney's splashy animated film Frozen, and Black Nativity, a musical starring Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker that, as you might guess, is a Christmas story. With Whitaker also in the cast of Out of the Furnace he'll be competing against himself somehow, but with a cast that also includes Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard in addition to Affleck, Bale and Harrelson, we're putting Out of the Furnace at the top of our list for that weekend-- and for Oscar season in general, really.

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