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Film Review: Blue Ruin

on May 07, 2014, 12:00am
B+
Director
Jeremy Saulnier
Cast
Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack
Release Year
2013
Rating
R

An eloquent and downright bloody affair, Blue Ruin is a bulls-eye. Often literally.

Dwight (newcomer Macon Blair) is a loner living in solitude, hiding from everyone and everything. He’s hidden beneath nearly a foot of red beard, and even longer scraggly hair. Clearly, he’s quite content being left alone, living off garbage scraps, bathing in houses when the folks aren’t home, and sleeping in either a tent or his rusty old blue Pontiac. In fact, Dwight’s only accessible trait is his big, sad eyes. Clearly they’ve seen things that are better left buried.

That is, until someone digs up Dwight’s skeletons. Upon finding out that a man is being released from prison that Dwight knew and harbors a grudge against, Dwight begins what we can only expect to be a relentless, kick-ass comeuppance story. Dwight’s clearly upset by this news, and knowing anything about home-cooked revenge flicks like this, people will get hurt, bold moves will be made, revelations will be had, and morals and ethics will be challenged. Blue Ruin is all that, but to creative new ends.

Dwight embarks on a mission of naturalistic vengeance, simultaneously meeting and subverting expectations. When Dwight hides in a bathroom, waiting to see someone, we don’t totally know what his plans are, and it’s thrilling to wonder just what he’s capable of.

When a foot chase occurs, bullets and punches don’t fly all over the place, and edits are made to actually advance from one crucial shot to the next. Dwight never has clever punchlines. He’s not a cool killer. He doesn’t find obvious solace from his actions. Blue Ruin is just great that way. It’s successfully familiar, yet pleasantly, surprisingly guarded fare. You recognize what’s happening, but ponder over how events will unfold.

In one of the film’s best scenes, Dwight must remove an arrow from his leg. It’s not shrapnel, or broken glass, or bullets, but Dwight gets a stupid-ass arrow stuck in his leg. Dwight knows he has to remove it, and initially, the events that follow remind one of Anton Chigurh taking shotgun pellets out of his body pristinely. Yet, between Macon Blair’s despair, and director Jeremy Saulnier’s willingness to see this removal through, the scene turns into a torturously tragicomic experience with a few twists and turns of its own. This is the film’s M.O. and it works.

Not to sound too sales-pitchy, but it’s a treat to see such a small film offer such great rewards. Consider the following: for eight bucks on OnDemand, you can rent Jeremy Saulnier’s tight, terse, and riveting micro-thriller Blue Ruin. Surely, this seems like a better deal than shelling out 15 bucks, maybe more if IMAX is involved, to see a bloated blockbuster. But, that would be a distracting, all-too-easy potshot at summer movie-going. Things like this come to mind when watching Blue Ruin. Great movies can be decidedly minor in scope and scale.

It should be noted that this movie is the end product of Kickstarter crowdfunding. Whereas most notable movie results from the process have a brand name attached (Zach Braff, Spike Lee, Veronica Mars), Saulnier pitched his passion project online and raised an impressive $35,000 dollars, pennies by studio standards. Saulnier wrote, shot, and directed Blue Ruin with remarkable patience, focus and even intimacy, which helped land it at the Cannes Film Festival last May. That alone is impressive. This is the stuff of indie lore.

Calling to mind the collective work of Cormac McCarthy, Vince Gilligan, and even the Coens, Saulnier’s brutal, yet muted film shows big time promise. Blue Ruin begs the question: what’s next for Saulnier, and when can we see it in the theater?

Trailer:

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