REVIEW: BLUE RUIN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JEREMY SAULNIER / SCREENPLAY: JEREMY SAULNIER / STARRING: MACON BLAIR, DEVIN RATRAY, AMY HARGREAVES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
With only his second full length feature, writer/director Saulnier has crafted a glorious, tragic, low-key and fascinating experience. Dwight (Blair) is living rough, sleeping in his Pontiac, dumpster-diving for food and breaking into houses to bathe. He dropped off the grid following the murder of his parents, but when a sympathetic police officer warns him that the offender is being released, he sets off on a mission to get retribution. It's an act of violence that will change everything for him as he realises an eye for an eye isn't always as straight forward as it seems.
While most revenge thrillers follow the path of high octane action, Saulnier takes a slower, more pensive route and is all the more powerful for it. Which isn't to say there's not plenty of brutality and bloodshed. Indeed, the tone of the film makes these scenes all the more shocking and disturbing. Dwight is a man whose life is ruined by the actions of others, but in trying to put right the injustice of releasing the man responsible, he opens up more danger for his estranged sister (Hargreaves) and her children. Inevitably, his road to vengeance can only end one way, a fate to which he is resigned to. Despite having very little clue as to the world his enemies live in - firearms are prevalent while he himself has no experience with them - he is driven to become an amateur assassin by the feelings that have been brooding in the years spent isolated from civilisation. Other than his end goal, he hasn't thought the plan through; the whole time he seems in a constant state of bewilderment, thanks to Blair's brilliantly subtle yet emotive performance.
Blue Ruin also includes some stunning cinematography (by Saulnier himself) which makes the most of the remote area of Kansas; offsetting the tranquil, rural life against the violence of the residents. Tonally, it's in a similar vein to the Coen Brother's 1984 classic, Blood Simple, complete with elements of black humour along the way. It's bleak, dark, painful, and chock-full of tension; the perfect antidote to the gung-ho machismo revenge films normally display. This is a superb character study in which retribution is but a small element.
It's not going to fill the multiplexes, but Blue Ruin is compelling viewing and will stay with you long after it's finished.
EXPECTED RATING: 7 out of 10