UK Release: May 2nd 2014
Writer and Director Jeremy Saulnier’s ‘BLUE RUIN’ is a very interesting revenge-thriller film. Originally conceived as a film so his high school friend Macon Blair can take the lead role, the film has a kickstarter campaign behind it. Blair plays Dwight Evans a man living away from his family, living in his Blue Ruin car, only to discover that the man who murdered his father has been released from prison. After killing him this revenge-thriller does something largely different from the genre its from and shows his character dealing with the consequences of his actions, which ends in one of the most tense films I have seen in the year so far.
What interesting here is how Saulnier’s here has been able to work ‘’outside-of-the-box’’ with the convention of its genre. Instead of a iced cool hero of Charles Bronson in ‘Death Wish’ or Dustin Hoffman in ‘Straw Dogs’ he has created a main character who is rather damaged, fractured and weak, and a man even after staking his first kill, still is very weak, if not weakened by the violence he has done. In the opening 20 minutes a lot of the film has limited words being spoke, a lot of the storytelling comes from the images on screen, and Blair’s (almost mute) performance, which gives you an idea about why this character has essentially become a fractured homeless bum. There is a real sense of the character complicity and worked with Saulnier’s cinematography (he acted as DOP as well) it really encapsulates Blair’s mute performance with what he is feeling.
There is your classic revenge film plot points which do pop up (and which you expect), however following this twist on its conventions a lot of the character do stuff outside there archetype of this particular genre of film and deliver plot delivery which you don’t expect their character to do. There is certainly metaphorical points about the whole idea that violence ‘’is’’ the violence itself, gun crime and families turning on families. A lot of this thought is brought to the forefront by Saulnier’s visual images of the violence itself, but also almost more frightening shots of arrows being stuck in the grass of an American suburb while someone runs past unaware. Again it does play on the classic notion abut if the main character is as bad the antagonist are themselves, however it is the willingness to go further and look past the revenge itself which makes the film stand up and garner attention.
As mensioned before this is a very tense film, it really plays into the idea that Dwight is very much this weak man who real really feel fearful for as alot of the film you don’t know who is hunting him or who he is hunting himself. And eventually as the film goes on every turn there is something to fear (again this is thanks to Blair’s very believable and brilliant performance). Also watch out for ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Nebraska’ star Devin Ratray who really is the embodiment of the US gun system.
While this is all good, at times you do feel the film is just missing its ‘bite’. One of these reasons to me is that maybe Blair’s protagonist doesn’t fell like he has enough disconnect or focus to pull this off. A lot of this came from when we meet his sister, says to him the line ‘’I’d understand why you’re doing this if you were crazy, but you are not’’. It does make you think maybe more time in trying to give more a idea about his mental state might give this film a added sophistication, if your moving the genre goalposts wider, with the story, why not the characters?
While it might not be for everyone (I always see revenge films being more a obscure taste), ‘Blue Ruin’ certainly brings a fresh perspective to a genre which is best remember from the 1970’s. There could be a argument some of the black humour might not work, and other then the metaphorical point, the film does really amount to anything, and ends on a interesting, if yet wrapped-up line. But this shouldn’t been taken away from this crisp, cunning tale with admirable clarity from its director, which is tense, which is worth watching just for Macon Blair and which is a very interesting piece of work indeed.