Blue Ruin (2014)
Release Date: April 25th, 2014 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jeremy Saulnier Actors: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock
uring the day, a homeless man in Virginia flees from the bathtub he’s just prepared in a stranger’s house, before making his way back to a beat up wreck of a car that contains his only belongings. That night, at a Funland carnival, he roots through the trash for a bite to eat. This downcast routine is interrupted by a local policewoman who drags the shaggy drifter, Dwight Evans (Macon Blair), into the precinct, where he’s informed that, as part of a plea deal, a double murderer will be released from incarceration. This news sparks shock and dread, which lead to the derelict hastily gathering his things, installing a battery in his vehicle, and hitting the road.
During his first stop, he steals a gun from a parked truck, though it proves to be useless. He then camps out at the prison, lying in wait for Wade Cleland, the man who is getting out of DOC custody – someone from his past, worth following quite carefully. Soon, Dwight is rattled, injured, woozy from blood loss, devoid of the keys to his ride, drenched in arterial spray, and a threatening source of escalating predicaments for his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) and himself, as a clan of vengeful killers tracks him down.
A riveting mystery is derived from simply withholding information from the audience, even if it’s just a matter of minutes. Ominous music builds to supplement the increasing series of questions, not only for why the vagrant is so concerned with the mysterious man’s newfound freedom, but also who Dwight is or used to be. As he moves through seemingly random encounters, characters and acquaintances begin falling into place. Silence is broken and motives and connections are unveiled, along with the grim foreshadowing of looming violence (such as the fingering of a shovel and pitchfork, a dangling crossbow, or the camera’s creeping movements through a lightless house).
Brilliantly, Dwight doesn’t at first appear to have any qualities out of the ordinary. He is, however, a character approached in a highly singular fashion by undergoing striking realism in the face of typical action-hero scenarios (such as humorously yet practically handling severe wounds). Unpreparedness, nervousness, and finally regret for every dangerous endeavor, including killing, negotiating, or even firing a weapon, ground his role in the welcome reality of a fresh and unusual thriller, not too tonally dissimilar from the stark mental conflicts witnessed in 1974’s “Death Wish.”
Unexpected events occur with intensity and force, blood is spilled but never glamorized, and the most unlikely of heroes transforms into a formidable opponent in an unavoidable, steadily amplifying war of retribution, impulsiveness, displacement, inherently involved kin, and plenty of weaponry (at times vaguely reminiscent of “First Blood”). The pacing is swift and the feeling that something ghastly is about to happen at any moment never fades. The perfectly exhilarating atmosphere is one of “Blue Ruin’s” greatest accomplishments, along with the boldness to tackle a bleak, brutal adventure with sincerity, no over-the-top theatrics, and uncompromising pragmatism.
– Mike Massie