A dark, superbly acted revenge tale set in the bleak Rust Belt.

From the writer/director of the Oscar winning “Crazy Heart”, Scott Cooper examines a different part of the country – one that feels like there’s no way out. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck are close brothers in a small, dying Pennsylvania town. Bale’s Russell works in the soon-to-be-closed mill, trying to do the right thing by his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) and his family. He works hard by day and by night, lovingly takes care of his terminally ill dad. Affleck’s Rodney doesn’t have the same work ethic. His way out is serving multiple tours in Iraq, which ultimately leave him a shattered soul who only feels at home when he’s in fight-mode.

Both brothers end up in a downward spiral. This is one bleak, bleak feel-bad film. From the shocking opening moments with Woody Harrelson’s sinister, sociopathic behavior, you know this one’s going down a dark path. Harrelson is terrifying as the meanest dude you’ll see on film all year. Amazing performance!! The top-notch cast is rounded out by Forrest Whitaker, as the sheriff and Sam Shepard as the brothers’ uncle.

Cooper definitely makes a statement here: both about hopeless dying small towns and how we treat our returning over-serving vets. Sound reminiscent of “The Deer Hunter” back in ’78???!! Yes- there are similarities. You’ll need a stiff drink after but while nursing it, no doubt you’ll be talking about the strong performances. Oh- one final memo to writer/director Scott Cooper: your diss of New Jersey is NOT appreciated. But good move using Eddie Vedder music!!!

3 stars