Blue Ruin (2014) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Macon Blair as Dwight Evans
Devin Ratray as Ben Gaffney
Amy Hargreaves as Sam Evans
Kevin Kolack as Teddy Cleland
Eve Plumb as Kris Cleland
Director: Jeremy Saulnier

A mysterious outsider’s (Macon Blair) 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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2007’s Murder Party was a decent first feature film from director Jeremy Saulnier, however it was Blue Ruin where he came into his own and started to get some notice as a director. I heard about Blue Ruin a long time ago while ago, I knew it was another thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, the director behind Green Room but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. After seeing it more recently I can say that it is a pretty good movie, although it’s not quite as good as Green Room.

One of the things that makes Blue Ruin unique is its take on a revenge film. Most revenge movies would have the protagonist being usually a Liam Neeson sort of character, with a particular set of skills. The character of Dwight in Blue Ruin however is far from capable at doing what he’s setting out to do. He does feel quite vulnerable, which raises the tension just a little more. Something that was surprising was the humour that was here, it was mostly dark and more to do with how Dwight is not at all suited for the job. It did help lighten up the otherwise bleak and sombre tone and mood throughout the film. I think it’s best not knowing too much about the movie going in, so I’ll try to keep my descriptions of the movie brief. The first third of the movie is slow but effective, building up to a satisfying climax in the end of that first third. The second third is really where the movie was lacking for me, it really slows down quite a bit. As a result, all of the tension is completely defused and you’re just sort of left waiting for things to happen and was all drawn out a little too much. The last third picks up a little bit however, and it ended in probably the only way it could’ve. The movie is 90 minutes long and I can’t imagine it being longer, it was probably the right length all things considered.

Really the most notable actor of all the cast of Blue Ruin is long-time Jeremy Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair as the lead character of Dwight, and he’s great. As I said, his character is more like a normal guy and is rather amateurish, not fit for violence or revenge at all, and he’s really convincing, really grounded. Much of the movie is relying on Blair and is just following him for the entire runtime and thankfully he pulls it off really well. Much of the movie doesn’t even have him necessarily saying a lot of dialogue, especially in the first act, and he conveys so much during these quiet moments. Other members of the cast are good in their roles but don’t really do enough to stand out, however Devin Ratray as Dwight’s friend Ben is also quite good in his screentime.

Jeremy Saulnier’s direction here has vastly improved over his direction in Murder House, and his work here is fantastic. The cinematography is beautiful looking and it’s Saulnier himself who did it, it really added a lot to the film. In the second act the tension is completely defused but otherwise, Saulnier made most of the movie feel really tense, especially in the first and third act. The violence is brutal, bloody and gritty but there’s not a lot of it, there’s probably like a few scenes of violence in the whole film. While I had problems with the lack of tension and all that in some of the movie, I appreciate the restraint by Saulnier not to just make it a bloodbath, because it would’ve be so easy to just fall into doing that.

Blue Ruin is maybe not as good as I’d hope it would be, the pacing is a little too slow and the second act is not on the same level as the rest of the movie. Outside of that, Blue Ruin gets a lot right, with some really tense moments, Macon Blair’s performance and most of all Jeremy Saulnier’s great direction. Definitely worth checking out sometime.

 

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