BLUE RUIN Blu-ray Review
The history of films that have dived into the revenge thriller genre invokes an image of a suave “retributionist” like Paul Kersey in Death Wish or a calculated killing machine, equipped with unlimited ammo and one-liners courtesy of John Matrix in Commando. This convention is completely obsolete in filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore outing Blue Ruin. It’s a tense and haunting thriller that takes the viewer on a ride with a desperate soul. He’s out of his depth and headed down a path filled with pain and blood in a blue Pontiac Bonneville, running towards an abyss of brutal punishment that’s too late to turn away from.
Dwight is portrayed by Macon Blair, who gives an astounding performance that at times is sympathetic, chilling, tragic and desperate. Dwight is first introduced as a beach bum, living out of his car and eating out of trash cans, there’s no dialogue as the setup is told through striking cinematography and facial expressions. It’s soon revealed how Dwight ended up in this position when a policewoman finds him and gives him the news that the man who murdered his parents, is about to be released from prison. After unsuccessfully trying to steal a gun, Dwight acquires a knife and confronts the man who’s haunted his dreams in the toilet stall of a dirty punk club and at this moment the feeling of actually being put in this kind of situation becomes a cold slap of reality to the face. Dwight isn’t prepared to handle this. He’s completely driven with hatred; this revenge isn’t glamorous. It’s sloppy and nerve-wracking, unpredictable, and worst of all, this act will seal his fate into facing a long and dark harrowing journey of paying more retribution to protect himself and his innocent sibling.
The deeper Dwight digs himself into this mess, the more apparent it becomes how unprepared he is to face his demons. He didn’t consider the personal consequences that reached beyond his own wish fulfillment. When Dwight confronts his sister and warns her to leave with her children, her words are a wake-up call that would have been useful before everything spiraled out of control: “I’d forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not crazy, you’re weak!” The odds of Dwight’s survival and revenge tilt more in his favor when he becomes reacquainted with an old friend played by Devin Ratray (Nebraska), who just happens to be a gun nut with no hesitation about taking lives; though fate doesn’t seem to afford Dwight any support towards his final battle. And despite the mistakes that are made every step of the way, Blair’s performance manages to encourage routing for Dwight’s resolution, if not just to offer a solution to the escalating bloodbath.
Jeremy Saulnier has crafted a straight-forward revenge tale into visual poetry and it never becomes conventional, there’s also plenty of dark humor that’s very subtle such as a moment when Dwight is pouring his soul to his sister in a diner and making a full confession to his crime, a customer awkwardly asks them for the bottle of ketchup on their table. This may be Saulnier’s second film but this film is a breakout and a revelation that makes me very excited about what we might see from him in the future. Blue Ruin is the kind of film that shows how something as overdone as the revenge thriller genre can be invigorating and exciting in creative hands.
The special features on this blu-ray release from Radius/TWC includes feature commentary from Macon Blair and director Jeremy Saulnier as well as a terrific behind the scenes feature called “No Regrets.”