“I’d forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not, you’re weak…”
When it comes to revenge thrillers, there’s really only two types of categories you can put them in. Some elect to go down the over-the-top action and fast paced “throw as many cool deaths in as possible” route like say Taken for example and some are like Blue Ruin, which attacks the sub-genre with such delicacy that you never want it to end. But at a short and sweet 92 minutes Blue Ruin doesn’t over indulge us to the point that we become hard to please, it makes us want more.
When our bearded protagonist Dwight is told of the news that Wade Cleland is being released from prison he puts his life on hold (which isn’t a huge task considering he lives out of his shitty Pontiac and survives mainly on scraps of food he finds in the bins) and heads off, presumably in search of said former jailbird. At this point we don’t fully know the whole story but that’s fine because we don’t have to. The brilliance of this film is that every scene in the opening fifteen minutes pretty much explains the situation to us without bogging us down with tiresome expository dialogue. The cleverly simple yet brilliant set-up which depicts Dwight as a homeless shell of a man merely surviving gives us as much as we need to know and is so much more rewarding. The film really begins when Dwight, played by Macon Blair, eventually catches up with Wade and things get out of control. We follow Dwight as he attempts to accept his actions and the fallout from his encounter with Wade.
Macon Blair is a revelation. His understated portrayal as the hapless Dwight is a real winner here. The sheer subtlety with which he suppresses his anguish and hate through every next turn is extremely welcoming in a day and age when the leading man has to almost always be an action hero. He’s an ordinary man forcing himself to be extraordinary but what makes this work so well is that every scene, every incident feels authentic. There’s a realism to the action that helps us to understand Dwight’s downward descent. It’s low budget without feeling amateur and it works all the better for it. Blair has the difficult job of carrying the film on his own, with only a few fleeting scenes from the support cast, but it’s easy to see that he relishes the task. However he really excels when he’s forced into a social exchange, something that his character is obviously not accustomed or comfortable doing on a regular basis. I especially enjoyed his short scenes with his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) and his old friend Ben (Devin Ratray).
Tense, beguiling and visceral. If this is anything to go by then writer and director Jeremy Saulnier is one to watch in the future. If you’re fond of a slow burner with top notch cinematography (also by Saulnier) that leans towards the character rather than the action then Blue Ruin is a must see.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter