Overview: A detached, homeless man seeks revenge for the murder of his parents when he learns that the man imprisoned for the crime is being set free. RADiUS-TWC; 2013; Rated R; 90 Minutes.
Vengeance: The most immediate and observable truth in this movie is Dwight’s softness. Macon Blair brings to the role a sad expression. Large, confused eyes, a lax jawline, and downward pulling cheeks. A face shaped by mourning. Early in the movie, Dwight’s sister calls him “weak.” A strange insult, considering that his murderous vengeance is already underway at this point, but still, there’s something accurate about her assessment. He is afraid and does not inspire our confidence. He is quiet, but not menacing. When he does speak, his sentences are frail and often incomprehensible. He seems fearful of his own voice. He explains after his first murder that he only went after his parents’ alleged killer because he expected that he would die first in the exchange. This is an easy confession to believe when we witness Dwight’s uncertain handling of his weapon; how inept he is at using it. He is a clean break from the cold, trained killer that a history of American vengeance films have conditioned us to expect. Where Blue Ruin maintains the familiar structure of story but substitutes the hero character for someone much more human and vulnerable, we are allowed a viewing experience that is wholly fresh, sincere, and unnerving.
Violence: The muted exposition sets the expectation that this will be another example of a near wordless rural drama, where the violence is implicit. That is not the case. Blue Ruin is saturated in onscreen violence. Director Jeremy Saulnier seeks his own direction here, abandoning the recent trend of low budget drama to leave the impression of violence without displaying it. Saulnier earns his bloody confrontations by riding into them on moments of pitch perfect tension and darkly farcical humor. In this sense the young director exhibits Coen-like sensibility and skill-in-craft (think somewhere between Blood Simple and Fargo).
Stacking the IMDb Credits: In addition to directing the film, Saulnier also penned the script and worked as his own cinematographer. In a movie full of film-making promise, this particular aspect might serve as the most glimmering exhibition of that potential. Blue Ruin‘s camera holds where it needs to hold, lingers at the right moments, and departs completely where other movies wouldn’t have the nerve. From the coastal shores of the opening segment, to the shots of the bullet riddled car working through forested two-lane roads, to the stressful shadows of unlit domestic spaces, Saulnier’s camerawork doesn’t miss a step.
Overall: There may be nothing in film as exciting as the moment a young filmmaker unexpectedly announces his/her arrival. Hang this one up on the wall. We’ll be revisiting it.