thu 30/05/2024

Blue Ruin | reviews, news & interviews

Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin

Jeremy Saulnier's striking second film is a story of spiralling revenge

'Hobo with a Shotgun' with added sincerity: Macon Blair stars as a vagrant turned vigilante in 'Blue Ruin'

Ah, revenge. Why does something so bad sometimes feel so necessary? Particularly in its most bloodthirsty form, it's a concept well explored onscreen, from almost every western and martial arts film to the final act of so many horrors – and the entirety of the spectacularly absurd TV series currently showing on E4, which is so obsessed with the idea it couldn't be called anything other than Revenge.

But what do those determined to get their own back truly hope to achieve, and where does an eye for an eye actually end?

Jeremy Saulnier's follow-up to the little-seen Murder Party deals with the futility of, and fallout from, violent vengeance. In this revenge thriller forgiveness is most definitely not an option – that's evident from the outset. Macon Blair (Saulnier's best friend) astonishes as Dwight Evans, who begins the film a shaggy bearded vagrant, foraging for his dinner in the dumpster of a fairground, lurking in the shadow of its twinkling lights and whoops of joy, sleeping in his car, bathing in the sea. When he's picked up by the police we might expect charges to be brought, but instead he's sensitively informed by the officer that his parents' killer is about to walk free and – seemingly without a second thought – he springs into action.

Despite his almost automated desire for vengeance, there's little that's traditionally gung-ho about Dwight. His pursuit of his parents' killer Wade Cleland and the ensuing, escalating conflict with Wade's fearsome family also marks Dwight's sudden reintroduction into society. That he's out of his depth amongst violent criminals is obvious, but he's not much better interacting with his estranged sister Sam (Homeland's Amy Hargreaves, pictured above right) whose life he puts at risk when he reignites their families' long-term feud. But this wide-eyed, painfully shy, sadly ostracised man of few words makes for a sympathetic lead even in his more extreme actions.

In its atmosphere of suffocating menace and cynicism Blue Ruin takes inspiration from sources as varied as Michael Mann's Thief and Cormac McCarthy and the small-town malevolence and black humour wouldn't be out of place in a Coen brothers' thriller. Yet our gunslinger is scrappy, blundering and visibly quaking in his boots thereby making it easier for a (let's assume) non-violent audience to project themselves onto him. Every now and again he flukes his way to success, or shows some ingenuity and there are a couple of Home Alone-type moments as Dwight prepares to fight back – not least in the casting of former child star Devin Ratray as Dwight's school-friend Ben.

Saulnier's ambition for his second feature (for which he also penned the script and acted as DP) was to bring an art-house sensibility to a genre picture and in this he emphatically succeeds. Blue Ruin is a gorgeously shot, well-oiled machine that's moody, spare and sore (in the American sense). It features a pared-down premise, yet what it lacks in surprises it makes up for in tension and efficiency. And ample excitement is derived from watching this appealing outsider flying by the seat of his (presumably worn-through) pants as he comes up against some juicy white-trash villains. As the evocative title suggests, a neat line won't be drawn under this chaotic conflict, which is sure to stay with you too. This is one of those times when a bloody mess makes for a terrific film.

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Blue Ruin


Ample excitement is derived from watching this appealing outsider flying by the seat of his (presumably worn-through) pants


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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