Director: Jeremy Saulnier
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 8.5/10
[This is a repost of our review from Sundance 2014. Blue Ruin is in theaters and VOD tomorrow.]
As a fan of revenge thrillers, the premise behind Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin was one that definitely intrigued me. What I didn’t know is just how incredibly powerful this tale of bloody revenge would be. It’s gritty, darkly comedic, and will absolutely be one of the best thrillers to screen this year.
The film opens on a homeless man named Dwight (Macon Blair) living out of a beat-up sedan, eating and bathing wherever and whenever he can. After finding out that his parents’ killer has been set free, Dwight sets out on a road trip to end the man’s life. What proceeds is a violent and tragic tale of revenge and retribution.
Director Jeremy Saulnier, whose previous film was 2007’s delightfully dark Murder Party, crafts a deceptively simple story, that favors brutal realism over high-octane action. The violence feels disturbingly real and, thanks to some incredible effects work, looks real as well. This visceral and sometimes grisly brutality aids in enhancing the emotional attachment the viewer feels with Dwight.
Macon Blair supplies an award-worthy performance as Dwight. His emotional shifts between quiet and humble to enraged and uncontrollable are expertly done. His deadpan line delivery is humorous, but it also informs us that this is a man who has been completely shattered. He begins the film with nearly no dialogue at all, being isolated completely from the world. As he starts to meet and talk with his family, friends, and enemies, it’s like he’s learning how to communicate with people all over again.
The visual style is stark and drab, complimenting the overall dread the story brings. Taking place near Rehoboth Beach, an area I’m very familiar with, Saulnier accurately captured the boardwalk atmosphere along with the sleazy grittiness that runs just beneath the surface. After leaving this area, the film takes us to the rural mountains of Virginia, with cabins located up long dirt roads, and dirty strip clubs in the middle of nowhere.
Blue Ruin is the perfect kind of revenge film. It’s dark and funny, with beautifully done cinematography and excellent performances. The violence is heavy, but not overdone and is used sparingly, and everything is presented in a realistic and natural way. It’s the type of film that will have you running the gamut of emotions, from laughter to rage then back to laughter then sadness and so on. As a fan of the revenge thriller, it honestly doesn’t get much better than this.