Blue Ruin – Slow Burn Suspense and the True Cost of Vengeance

GameStop, Inc.

“No speeches. You point the gun. You shoot the gun.”

There is a long-lasting subgenre of revenge films – Coffy, Point Blank, Death Wish, and the last decade of Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. As the quote above illustrates, Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin is film without the wordy speeches of a Tarantino film, it’s just vengeance. Cold, bloody vengeance. Whereas a majority of revenge films draw their audience to root for the protagonist, to find catharsis in their violent ways, Blue Ruin forgoes that in favor of an exploration of vengeance.

Having just learned of the imminent release of parents’ murderer, Dwight (Macon Blair), a man living out of his car on the Delaware shore, seeks to right the wrong perpetrated against his family.

When we first meet Dwight he’s taking a bath, adjusting the water to get the temperature to get it just right, when he hears a sound from the actual residents and takes off through the window. He sustains himself by scrounging for the scraps left behind by the boardwalk’s patrons. Upon hearing the news, Dwight gathers bottles and cans to fund his quest for vengeance.

More than anything, Blue Ruin is about the downward spiral the search for vengeance is, exploring these themes more thoroughly than last year’s Only God Forgives. Dwight doesn’t think about his initial actions thoroughly, that puts his sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves), and her children in danger. That danger comes from the Cleland family, whom feel they’ve been wronged by Dwight and his family. Before leaving her home with her children, Sam says, “I’d forgive if you were crazy, but you’re not. You’re weak.” Whether Dwight is weak, crazy, or both is debatable.

Blue Ruin feels like a low key No Country for Old Men. Like No Country, Blue Ruin has a feel of constant dread; no matter how gruesome the last thing you saw was, the worst is just lurking around the corner. There’s an undercurrent of really dry humor throughout, also similar to the Coens’ work.

The dialogue is sparse but to the point, and the film boasts some of the finest digital cinematography I’ve seen in some time. Saulnier’s measured direction and calculated editing builds the tension to a crescendo, shocking in some moments and grotesque in others. Most importantly, it serves as a reminder that sometimes the best edits are the ones you don’t make.

While the film excels in cinematography, editing, and direction, it’s Macon Blair who shines brightest in what should be a breakout role. He sells each one of Dwight’s moments, big and small, all of his doubts and weaknesses, his sadness, his loneliness, his disconnect from humanity.

Blue Ruin is currently in select theaters and available for rental through various VOD providers (Amazon, Vudu, etc.).

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