BLUE RUIN (2014)
From Jeremy Saulnier, the director of black comedy Murder Party, comes a completely different type of film.
Dwight (Macon Blair) is a homeless drifter living by the beach. He keeps to himself until he is informed that a man who has wronged his family is being released from prison. Dwight decides to seek revenge.
‘I’m not doing this because it’s right. This is ugly.’ Dwight’s old friend Ben, Devin Ratray, sums up the truth of revenge midway through the movie and it is a line that Blue Ruin holds at its core. The film goes further than the usual revenge film narrative, getting most of that out of the way early, and shows the fall out of Dwight’s actions, endangering those around him. Most revenge films would have you believe that the act of vengeance is the end of the story but Blue Ruin follows the fallout with a steady and open eye. Dwight’s vengeance is just one step on a series of events that wildly spiral out of control and out of his reach as vengeance begets vengeance and the bodies start to pile up.
The violence is brutal and quick but also messy, just like in real life. It is not glamourised and it is not laboured over and thrust in your face. It exists as the messy and painful fact that it is. The film does not let you believe that revenge is right, or that all the violence is justified. The film throws in a few gentle twists and turns to make the moral line very blurry and it shows how violence only creates more violent and how it can only destroy, never repair. Blue Ruin wants you to think, is revenge ever justified?
Dwight is not the highly skilled and trained action hero like so many revenge films, he is a broken man driven by only one impulse, to take revenge on the person who harmed his family. When we first meet him he is bedraggled, bearded and shaggy haired but he tries to keep out of the way. It is this very strong first section of the movie that predominantly wordlessly conveys Dwights character and story by focussing on his actions, helped in no small part by the strong acting of Macon Blair. Later when he has cleaned himself up we can see that Dwight is just a normal person, not a muscle bound beautiful person, but a man who could be your next door neighbour. Most importantly, Dwight is a broken man, his life derailed and torn apart by what happened to his family. He is a man that has had years to think about his revenge and now this is the only part of him that is left. Dwight is a conflicting character, mild but driven by vengeance, you are never fully convinced of rooting for him as his actions are so brutal.
Saulnier has taken a very large step away from his first film and has now placed himself as someone to watch and his leading man is an equally exciting prospect. Blue Ruin was partially funded by a kickstarter campaign. If you contributed to that then you should be happy in the knowledge that your money was well spent. Blue Ruin is a tense, bleak and well-made film and a breath of fresh air in a predominantly stagnant genre. It has strong performances and a lot more intelligence than your usual revenge film.