Archive for May, 2014

Blue Ruin (2013)

Posted: May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Drifter Dwight has retreated from life due to tragedy, living out his days stealing food from bins and sleeping in his disused car. When a kindly police officer informs him that his parent’s killer is to be released from prison, he snaps from his malaise and sets off on a journey that will have far reaching consequences.

Where many revenge thrillers are gleeful fantasies, “Blue Ruin” is sad, melancholy and, at times, almost tranquil. For long stretches the film is wordless and you are left to piece together the story from the actions of the main character and exposition delivered in brief snatches.

The violence that must come, as necessary to the story as the air these characters breathe, arrives in sudden explosions; unpleasant, palpable and with a genuine weight to it that most films can only dream of achieving. Punctuating this are genuine gut laughs, as the form of the genre is subverted; contorted away from fetishistic daydream toward maudlin and mundane reality. The perfect example of this arrives when our hero attempts some Rambo-esque field surgery on an arrow wound before the scene quickly cuts to him staggering into a hospital and collapsing in agony.

The direction is down to earth, as long languid takes emphasise the fact that this isn’t your typical revenge movie. The stylised flatness is a constant reminder that this film has no intention of descending into Hollywood hyperbole. The somber slow-burn pace is tinged with an innate wistfulness, which makes it all the more effective when Saunier masterfully ramps up the tension.

At the film’s centre is a wonderful turn from Macon Blair, returning from director Saulnier’s earlier film “Murder Party” (and those that have seen that film will appreciate exactly how much of a departure this is from that peformance). The camera is on him for the majority of the film’s runtime and he is a consistently enthralling and unusual presence. His Dwight is believably beaten, defeated by the tragedies that life has thrown at him; his big wide eyes, innocent puppy dog face and hangdog demeanour eliciting a never-ending stream of sympathy ¬†as he plunges ever deeper into a dark world that is as alien to him as it is to the viewer.

Devin Ratray is also excellent as Dwight’s gun-nut old friend, a brief but immensely likeable cameo that lightens the mood and reminds you that Dwight was once just as normal as any of us before his world was blown apart. Ratray’s main claim to fame is his appearance as Kevin’s older brother Buzz in “Home Alone”, and based on the evidence here, he is not a child star who should be consigned to a “Where are they now?” clip-show. A moment toward the end of the film that could easily be dismissed as a kind of Deus Ex Machina is a trespass immediately forgiven, as you get the chance to spend a few more minutes with his boisterous character.

Director Jeremy Saulnier showed real promise with his first film, the likeable but flawed “Murder Party” and he largely delivers on it here, despite being hamstrung by an incredibly low budget. He gambled on himself, with what he couldn’t earn through a Kickstarter campaign coming chiefly from his own pocket, and beat the house at it’s own game. While small in scale, this is a film that packs a real punch, a quirky “Anti-Hollywood” picture that delivers as much bang for your buck as any blockbuster.