Blue Ruin (2014) Review

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Run Time: 90 minutes

Cast: Macon Blair, Amy Hargreaves, Devin Ratray, Kevin Kolack, et al…

Plot (taken from IMDb): A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.

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Dwight (Macon Blair), is an outsider. He lives in his old, run-down car, scavenging for scraps of food and money. He squats in homes while the owners are away. This is of his own doing, however. He left home after his parents were killed. His fairly content, sad existence is called into question, however, when a policewoman informs him that the murderer of his parents has been released from prison. Dwight sets off to enact his revenge.

What follows is a fairly straightforward plot punctuated with some extreme violence and minimalist dialogue. Indeed, the performances in Blue Ruin are tidy and effective. No one has that much to say, but the quiet is as unsettling as seeing a man writhing on the floor with a key in his neck. I’m not much of a fan of extreme violence, and Blue Ruin made me squirm more than once, but this shows just how effective this film is in displaying its violence – pinpointed in exact moments throughout the film to make even more of an impact.

Dwight is no professional killer, and it shows. He covers areas in blood, with little to no panache in the way he goes about his business. He feels somewhat akin to a Coen Brothers character, too. He is awkward and at times darkly comedic. Indeed, Blue Ruin can be occasionally funny, but it doesn’t do much to quell the somber mood that surrounds it. The camera applies a blue tinge to everything it touches. You are shown sad cars, streets and houses along with the troubled characters. Jeremy Saulnier has created a depressing tale, but was able to breathe life into proceedings via Dwight. While he doesn’t say much and stumbles his way through all that he does, he comes across as fairly normal (despite living in his car and killing someone). He’s just an ordinary, quiet bloke.

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Blue Ruin is certainly about the character more than the plot. Just another area in which the film is reminiscent of a Coen Brothers piece. At times, however, Blue Ruin is just a little too quiet and can veer off into style over substance. You’re left in the dark a fair amount and given little to go off other than something like a long shot of the inside of a house. Blue Ruin stops to take in the sights, but at times it can feel a tad too slow. My biggest gripe with Blue Ruin, however, is that I simply didn’t agree with Dwight. I wanted him to get caught for what he had done. Yes, his anger towards the killer of his parents is understandable, but to turn to murder is wrong. I didn’t feel sorry for him, nor wish him to succeed.

The thing is, though, that Saulnier’s violent revenge thriller will stick with you. It’s sadness tinged with dark comedy and brutal violence is haunting, the lingering shots building tension in everything Dwight goes through, no matter whether you agree with it or not. Perhaps you’re meant to side with nobody here. Blue Ruin shows what people can be driven to do based on tragic moments in their lives, and the results are horrific.


Blue Ruin is a smart, yet simple revenge thriller that all gets a little out of hand.


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