Jeremy Saulnier’s low-budget revenge thriller, Blue Ruin is a masterclass in suspense, visceral action and dark melodrama. With expressive performances and a stripped-down style, it’s an intelligent vigilante story.
Macon Blair stars as Dwight Evans, an emotionally damaged vagrant, who lives out of his car and scavenges for food and money. He is seemingly so disturbed by the past traumas in his life that he can’t interact with other people. Dwight is ghostly and hopeless – a drifter with a scraggly beard and long hair – and whose life appears to have completely fallen apart. When he learns from a cop that his parent’s killer is to be released from prison, Dwight experiences an awakening of sorts. He returns to his hometown in Virginia, cleans himself up and attempts to get his hands on a murder weapon. What follows is a familiar narrative road, but one that is staged with sudden shocks and brutal scenes.
There’s often a glamour about revenge movies. Many of these films try to justify acts of vengeance, but Blue Ruin is more interested in the deeper effects of violence and how it’s a never-ending cycle. Dwight takes no pleasure in his actions and when he revamps his appearance, he emerges as quite innocent-looking and oddly sympathetic. Blair does a profound job of portraying a regular guy who has become deeply wounded. He’s a broken man, stumbling his way down a dark path and acting on impulse.
While Blue Ruin doesn’t reinvent narrative tropes, it’s still an effective film about the damaging effects of violence. And although the second act doesn’t quite live up to the first, it never descends into mindless exploitation. Blue Ruin is a tough, twisty thriller with an excellent, dramatic payoff.
Directed and written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Stars: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Eve Plumb
Distributor: Picturehouse Entertainment (UK)
Run Time: 90 minutes.