TL;DR: Clichés and misuse of motive maim most western revenge thrillers. Thankfully, “Blue Ruin”’ is the epitome of the “show don’t tell” mantra, laying the groundwork for 90 minutes of sensical character arcs, consummate action deliverance and everything being done so right even the Korean-revenge-masters would approve.
Most of my favourite revenge genre flicks are Asian films such as Chan-Wook Park’s Revenge trilogy, “The Man from Nowhere”, “I Saw The Devil” to name but a few. Nobody ever wins in a game of revenge, apart from the viewer and that’s what I love about the genre. These films are dark, often have extended torturous sequences and explicit violence; things which Western audiences and subsequently production companies tend to avoid. They’re also slow-burning which when used properly especially in such a short film as “Blue Ruin”, gives the director massive control over the ambient, inescapable tension but also when he can deliberately overdose you.
Much like how Hitchcock found such great success in re-using the civilian-turned-spy ploy, here Saulnier throws our almost-regular guy into the deep-end as a fumbling, inexperienced yet incredibly vengeful killer. Macon Blair, writer turned actor, plays Dwight our protagonist. We find out through a completely speechless opening sequence (apart from a police officer saying “He’s getting out…” or words to that effect”) that Dwight is strung up and living in his car, bathing in strangers houses when necessary, scavenging bins for food and oh, that his parents’ killer is now loose on the streets. Macon Blair’s face is a picture here and throughout the film, that was his tipping point though. Something has to be done.
The film, though on a fairly low budget of roughly $1m, is made and shot expertly with plenty of sweeping panning shots and dolly shots, certain in-car snippets reminiscent of Refn’s “Drive”. I think calling the film violent is also an injustice as at no point were on-screen scuffles messy or unnecessary; if it were a porn, people would call it tasteful. The film’s gore hits hard with crunchy, targeted editing when it needs to in isolated CGI/make-up jobs similar to certain kills in Gareth Evans’ “The Raid 2: Berandal” in turn economising effect funding to comply with the aforementioned budget.
What people have been describing the film as is “solid”, rightly, and bluntly so in my pseudo-expert opinion. Apart from minor, possibly inevitable (I’m not a filmmaker) annoyances such as “How can they not see him tailing them, he’s literally right there!” there isn’t half a line that shouldn’t be in this film, a result of stringent scripting and work in the cutting room. Action and subtle dark humour is intertwined with the storyline soundly as Dwight fights to survive and confront in multiple Virginia-based locations. Not all the characters are fully developed but they don’t all need to be. Dwight’s gun-toting pal Ben (played by Devin Ratray a.k.a Buzz from Home Alone) is an example, his aid to Dwight is justified by an old photo of the two of them partying; he’s also killed 2 men but do we really need to know why? No.
“Blue Ruin” is an example to most modern action/thriller films. Maybe it’s hiked cinema ticket prices (£12.00 for me) that obligates filmmakers to tack on 30 extra minutes of faffy dross to make people feel they’ve gotten bang for their buck. Maybe those minutes wouldn’t be needed if CGI were used more creatively for effect thereby lowering production value, lowering ticket prices and giving people what they really want. I know what I want. “Sympathy for Mr. Blue Ruin”.
Loved it, GIMME MORE. 8.4/10.