Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin is a story about revenge; pure, aggressive and passionate revenge. The need for revenge runs deep throughout this intense drama that focusses on very little else. Revenge remains the film’s only theme and focus, because that’s all it needs. We first meet the film’s protagonist, Dwight, whilst he takes a bath – a bath that we soon discover is not his own. Something of a drifter, Dwight wanders from place to place, living in his car and remaining isolated from those around him. When he is informed that a certain man has been released from prison, his drifting ends and he becomes a man with a very clear plan. We come to understand that the released convict is responsible for past pain in Dwight’s life; pain that he is intent on repaying. As with most revenge thrillers, I was preparing for flashbacks to the bloody events that lead to Dwight’s eventual violent spree, but Blue Ruin has a more original and unpredictable plan in store. The film is more concerned with what comes next as opposed to how did we get here? As Dwight ventures out to get even, we accompany him on a journey that demonstrates the dangers of punishing violence with violence. Blue Ruin does occasionally lose its footing, but only slightly; enough to be forgiven. The story is moving and suspenseful and we walk beside Dwight the whole way.
Blue Ruin is not for the faint hearted. The film is dripping in gore and a savagery which this story deserves. The visual brutality matches that of Dwight’s tale. We feel every wound and every attack, penetrating through the screen. Blue Ruin seems to scream “go hard or go home”. Director Jeremy Saulnier has directed this delightful gore-fest with passion and conviction. Blue Ruin is a perfect example of how to use a small budget and get the most from it. The script is exceptional; exceptional and minimalist. Amidst the tragedy and chaos, Saulnier, who is also responsible for writing the film, finds room to make this a funny movie. I chuckled a lot more than I expected to and the film didn’t have to try too hard to make me do so. The soul of the film lies in the lead character who carries with him a sorrow but also a message. We like Dwight, we grow to know and understand him. We particularly sympathise with his obvious suffering which is captured and projected wonderfully by Macon Blair. Yet, as the film develops we begin to question who is right and who is wrong and eventually Blue Ruin smacks you around the face with the realisation that perhaps these characters, whatever the truth about the past, are all just as bad as each other. Despite the obvious comparisons one could make to the Coen brother’s work, and other gritty revenge stories such as Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes, Blue Ruin remains highly original. It is simplistic and strong-minded and knows exactly where it wants to go and what it wants to say. What an exciting breath of fresh air that is.
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