Union Furnace Blu-ray Review

 

What Would You Do For Money?

A car thief in a small Ohio town gets involved in an underground game of life and death with seven strangers. Director Nicholas Bushman’s Union Furnace is a genre thriller that explores the psychological pressure of strangers doing unspeakable things in exchange for money. It’s not a particularly new concept but is handled fairly well with one or two interesting flourishes in Union Furnace. Moody and off-beat, the stylish thriller has capable performances from its cast.

A mysterious man offers Cody (Mike Dwyer), a small-time car thief with bad gambling debts, a chance at an opportunity that could change his life for good. Cody soon finds himself trapped with an eclectic group of strangers, all promised the same chance at fortune. Eight strangers are gathered together for the amusement of masked gamblers wearing animal masks. The strangers are coerced into playing deadly games with each other over the course of one night, until there is only one person left. What starts out as a slow boil for the group escalates into a brutal psychological battle of wills that will test their courage and moral convictions.

The genre thriller doesn’t really develop its characters enough and some of the dialogue needs work

The most recognizable face in Union Furnace is veteran character actor Keith David, having appeared in dozens of films over the years from Platoon to They Live. He plays one of the strangers trapped in the deadly underground game and you kind of wish his character had a bigger role. Newcomer Seth Hammond plays the ringleader of this twisted game, wearing a lion mask.

Is Union Furnace a great movie? Probably not, but it certainly has its moments. Cody is an interesting protagonist, though a couple of the supporting characters could have been more refined. The genre thriller doesn’t really develop its characters enough and some of the dialogue needs work. But it does ratchet things up as the games get more and more intense, including a disturbing scene when one player is forced to eat the brains of a recently killed opponent.

Union Furnace is interesting as much for its out of the way setting in Southern Ohio than anything else. The heartland of America gets largely ignored by Hollywood. This group of strangers are bound together by quiet desperation and the slim hope of fortunes in the game overpower their moral bearings. As Cody plays these games, we get to learn about the trials and tribulations of the other players. It’s necessary texture that separates Union Furnace from just another cheap, knock-off thriller.

Video

Metropol Pictures presents Union Furnace on a BD-R in fine video quality for this budgetary level of filmmaking. The 2015 film was shot on the RED Epic camera in steady HD. The low-budget genre thriller has a subtle greenish tint to its somber palette. The 1080P video is fairly sharp with okay clarity, if muted in primary colors and contrast. Union Furnace runs over 89 minutes and is encoded in MPEG-2 at bitrates in the twenties. Some hints of banding and chroma noise manifest in darker shots.

While the picture quality isn’t polished and pristine HD, this Blu-ray presentation does its job. There is palpable texture and definition. The interiors are somewhat dull however and shadow delineation gets occasionally crushed. Union Furnace is a moody psychological thriller and its gritty ethos works better in slightly dingy video.

Audio

Union Furnace comes with 2.0 Dolby Digital audio at 384 kbps. One complaint is that some dialogue gets buried in the stereo mix, particularly whenever Seth Hammond’s Lionman character speaks. Dialogue reproduction is generally fine. The mix may have too much dynamic range, as there is a wide disparity between quieter dramatic scenes and the more active action moments. The eclectic score sets the right tone and mood. The lossy audio is disappointing but indie productions don’t tend to spend heavily on audio design.

No subtitles are included.

Extras

Metropol Pictures gave us a BD-R screener for review, so DoBlu is unsure if retail copies will be pressed for home video.

The Making of Union Furnace (18:00 in HD) – A robust look behind the scenes with director Nicholas Bushman, lead actor Mike Dwyer and several other cast & crew members. Bushman and Dwyer go into the history of their friendship and working together on Sandbar, Bushman’s first movie. Footage is included of Dwyer and others actually building the sets in this low-budget indie production. It’s a nice look at Union Furnace and how everything came together to make the film. Some interesting cast tidbits about Keith David and others are told.

Teaser Trailer (01:26 in HD)

Theatrical Trailer (02:53 in HD)

Color Bars (01:32 HD) – What begins as the color bars pattern eventually reveals an unseen outtake from the film with Cody.

Stranger in the Dunes Trailer (01:45 in HD) – This trailer precedes the main menu. It’s the next movie from director Nicholas Bushman.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For eight additional Union Furnace screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 7,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.