“Blue Ruin” Movie Review

So there are a few people in my horrendous life that I’ve held a grudge with, but I’ve never gone to lengths of bloody revenge. And now, after watching Blue Ruin, I’m glad I never followed through on that. This R-rated independent revenge thriller reportedly cost about $420,000 to produce, most of which was accumulated from a successful Kickstarter campaign. After its nationwide release on April 25th, 2014, it doubled that.This the film that put writer-director Jeremy Saulnier on the map as a brand new filmmaker to rely on. Set in rural Virginia, the plot follows Macon Blair as Dwight Evans, a beach vagrant who lives out of his car. One day, he finds out that the man who killed his parents and partially ruined his life has been released from prison on a plea bargain. Now he goes out to get some vigilante justice on this person and their equally selfish family. Now as some of you may remember, Jeremy Saulnier later brought us the horror film Green Room in 2016, a movie which I really enjoyed. But of course, like that brutal gore-fest, some of the characters in Blue Ruin, especially the protagonist, make some incredibly stupid decisions. Part of the time, I was rolling my eyes at the choices he made, whether he was somewhere he shouldn’t be or a plan he hadn’t thoroughly examined before acting on it. Granted, his character is supposed to be an idiot of sorts, so there’s that excuse. Despite that blemish in the script, this is still a methodical and believable movie based on the age-old concept of revenge. The cast is mostly comprised of unknown actors and actresses, with its lead star by far being the biggest name. Macon Blair is perfect in the lead role as Dwight. Despite his violent disposition, one can’t help but root for him in his struggles. Near the climax, when confronted by his adversaries, he calmly grimaces, “I’ve been thinking all day for a reason not to do this.” Everyone else in the supporting cast did a great job, though I’m not quite sure if they could use this gem to blossom into a full-blown career. Surprisingly, this has to be one of the quieter films I’ve seen in recent memory. While yes, there are some shootouts and standoffs sprinkled in now and again and the characters do get furiously emotional, it’s all presented in a rather restrained manner. In fact, there are huge swaths of the film that progress without a single word of dialogue said aloud. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. I would argue that this strategy allows the audience to pay more attention and be engaged, in a similar fashion to the Coen Brothers’ 2007 neo-Western, No Country for Old Men. It also allows Jeremy Saulnier to keep a steady focus on the characters and their story arcs. Not just a screenwriter and director, Saulnier also puts his hands to work on the cinematography. The eye-level shots of characters elevate the tension while establishing that no one is the stronger. These are interspersed with shots of the gorgeous nature of backwoods Virginia as well as low-angle interior footage of various locations, such as a roadside bar or a house in the suburbs. As for the soundtrack, nothing is particularly memorable, save for a few retro tracks by classic artists like NinaSimone. But for what score that is there, Macon Blair’s relatives, Will and Brooke, do a solid job at establishing the mood with ambiance and minimal instruments. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. Because this is the same creative talent behind 2016’s Green Room then it’s bound to be just as horrifically gory and brutal. I’ll stop right now to put that thought to rest because this film is not really that violent- or even very exciting. In reality, Blue Ruin is a slower, more patient examination of vengeance. When people start trying to kill each other, it is quite shocking and blood spills everywhere on the floor and the walls. But I would argue that the film acts as a commentary on the nature of violence- both for the genre itself and for human nature as a whole. When Dwight finally gets to see his plan go through, he doesn’t seem particularly happy to carry it out. In fact, he appears rather disgusted by it, despite how he keeps telling his friends that it’s what has to be done. Were I to place myself into his shoes, it’s hard to think that I would kill the people who wronged me with a smile on my face, completely bereft of sickness inside. And so I suppose, that could be a reason why some of his choices made were questionable. Overall, Blue Ruin is a masterful and memorable thriller that delivers a character-driven story while keeping audiences on the edge of their seats. This has to be one of the best, most original revenge movies ever crafted, sitting up in the annals with The Count of Monte Cristo and Oldboy. Proof that one doesn’t need dazzling effects and a budget worth the GPA of a third-world country to make a solid 90-minute thrill ride.

Image result for blue ruin poster

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