5 May 2014


So, these ones are always really fun to review. Just like Locke, Blue Ruin is as good as you've heard, perhaps better, but it's another of those films where the real enjoyment comes from its storytelling, and a refusal to spoon-feed so severe that it's frankly insulting to mention spoons in the same sentence as the movie. While there shall be no spoilers here, the film might be best enjoyed if you just go and watch it now.

For those who'd like a little more to go on, this is a film about Dwight Evans, a man who is first seen as a vagrant, breaking into houses in order to wash himself and scavenging his meals from bins. The bearded outcast gets picked up by a sympathetic cop early on, and told simply that a man called Wade Cleland has been released from prison. The news galvanises Dwight on a terrible mission of vengeance, with tragic and far-reaching consequences.

It's quite typical for movies of this kind to go through the motions of "he who goes looking for revenge should dig two graves" without ever really exploring the idea that violence only leads to more violence. The most introspection you usually get is a feeling of mild depression after the hero has killed absolutely everybody who did them wrong, but the filmmakers don't want to deplore violence until after they've had a whole lot of gory fun showing it. Tarantino usually manages alright, because he makes artful exploitation films, but writer-director Jeremy Saulnier hasn't made it so easy on himself.

This is despite coming off of directing an exploitation movie himself, (according to IMDB, 2007's Murder Party) which kind of makes this even more impressive as an unassuming, but utterly gripping drama. There's an almost disorienting lack of exposition in the film's opening movement. Dwight is not a man of many words to begin with, and it's not like he has anybody to talk to on his journey either. Even when other characters give him something to bounce off of, the film never starts prolapsing back-story, instead letting us comprehend what's going on through superbly acted interactions.

Macon Blair leads a cast primarily made up of unknowns, and his Dwight is a really compelling character, more heartbroken and hurt, than overflowing with righteous rage. He's certainly not cool, and hasn't suddenly taken a level in bad-ass purely because he has a grievance. Instead, you're actually afraid for him, because the opposite is true. It's emotion that will cause him to fail, as one character tells him at a pivotal moment. Another tells him that they could forgive his actions if he were crazy, but he's not- he's weak.

That the character and the film both take that on the chin, and Dwight carries on with a mission that's as futile as every right-headed person warns him it will be, is testament to how different this is. It finds no glory in vengeance, and wrings some masterful pathos out of exploring every character as thoroughly as our avenging protagonist. It's not a light film- there's not even a gallows sense of humour, except for having the same affinity for incongruous and yet appropriate soundtrack choices as Breaking Bad. Other than that point of reference, (which might also allow you to draw a line between Walter White and Dwight) this one is pretty much unique.

Blue Ruin doesn't merely shoot the revenge movie rulebook to smithereens- it conscientiously examines how such an act should probably leave you looking over your shoulder in case any other books come and return fire. Vengeance is neither glorified, nor particularly well carried out on Dwight's part, and Macon Blair's powerfully understated performance anchors a story that has been stripped back to a quiet and unpredictable succession of people lashing out at each other out of hurt and spite, to stirring and unforgettable effect.

Blue Ruin is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Blue Ruin, why not share your comments below? Den Of Geek fans can read an excellent interview with writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier here.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It is the best film I have seen this year, no doubt.