His younger brother, played by Casey Affleck, gets mixed up in a world of violence and then mysteriously disappears. So Bale's character is on a mission to find him. And that means going up against a ruthless criminal played by Woody Harrelson. He's just nasty.
"I was a little bit reticent to take the part for that reason, you know?" said Harrelson. "And, also, my wife was a little more than reticent. She told me not to do it."
But Harrelson wanted to work with director Scott Cooper, who got great acclaim for his film "Crazy Heart." So he took the job.
Cooper believes a lot of movies today are too fast-paced. And that's not his style.
"I think we have been conditioned now because of our PDAs and our iPhones and our BlackBerrys to have instantaneous gratification, and that's not even fast enough," said Cooper. "People, I think, need to slow down, connect and allow a film like this or many others to wash over them and really not try to rush out of there."
You may notice Bale's character is a man of few words. But sometimes that can speak volumes. And the actor has his own way of how to play such a character.
"So I actually do that, when I start a film, I actually write what they're thinking so I've got, it's just like I learn the same dialogue and I don't say it, but I learn it exactly what they consider and then, you know, as you get into the groove of it, you just come to know it and you're improvising in your own head but you're never saying any of it," said Bale.
"Out of the Furnace" is rated "R" for strong violence, language and drug content. It opens Friday.