Review – Blue Ruin

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then it’s never tasted so deliciously chilly than this stripped-back modern classic.

Concluding his Kickstarter pitch, Jeremy Saulnier stakes his career on the promise that he'll make good on those willing to put their faith in his film. After watching Blue Ruin, it's safe to say that faith has been hugely rewarded

Saulnier staked his career on the promise that he’d do good by those willing to put their faith in his film. After watching Blue Ruin, it’s safe to say that faith has been hugely rewarded

Looking for funding to help complete his sophomore feature through Kickstarter, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier pitched Blue Ruin as “not your standard revenge film. It does not glorify violence; it does not justify violence. It does the opposite”.

Thank goodness the public stepped in to hand over their hard-earned cash to help Saulnier deliver on that promise and turn in a truly subversive take on the traditional revenge picture.

Dwight (Macon Blair) prepares for a grisly deed in Blue Ruin

Dwight (Macon Blair) prepares for a grisly deed in Blue Ruin

Beach bum Dwight’s (Macon Blair) sheltered and reclusive life takes a hellish turn when he receives sickening news from an unlikely source. The revelation sets Dwight on a self-destructive path of revenge that leads to a bloody and unremitting aftermath he is ill-prepared for.

Blue Ruin has invited comparisons to the Coens, specifically their noirish debut Blood Simple, although the sombre and hauntedย No Country For Old Men feels like a more suitable reference point, right down to the similarity of the two films’ posters.

Dwight's (Macon Blair) descent begins in Blue Ruin

Dwight’s (Macon Blair) descent begins in Blue Ruin

The comparison to Joel and Ethan’s work is understandable, but somewhat depressing as it underlines just how rare films of this ilk are in American cinema.

Revenge movies invariably fall into the tried and tested constraints described by Saulnier in his Kickstarter pitch and adopt an ends-justify-the-means approach. Those films tend to conclude with the ‘happy ending’ of the revenge having been successfully realised, but Blue Ruin takes the entirely darker approach of showing what happens next.

Sam (Amy Hargreaves) takes her brother Dwight (Macon Blair) to task in Blue Ruin

Sam (Amy Hargreaves) takes her brother Dwight (Macon Blair) to task in Blue Ruin

If history has taught us anything, it’s that violence begets violence and Saulnier’s picture isn’t afraid to have Dwight traverse an increasingly bleak and bloody road to hell.

The violence, when it does come, is startling and visceral. There are no winks at the audience or satisfied one-liners; merely chaos, confusion and terror.

Ben (Devin Ratray) shows Dwight (Macon Blair) the ropes of how to use a gun in Blue Ruin

Ben (Devin Ratray) shows Dwight (Macon Blair) the ropes of how to use a gun in Blue Ruin

Clocking in at exactly 90 minutes, the film doesn’t waste a single shot. Dwight is shown in the near-wordless opening reel as a pretty methodical guy, all be it someone living out of a rusted old car. Upon receiving his news, he quickly turns his attention to the mission at hand, but it’s when the act of revenge is complete that Dwight discovers any semblance of control he had no longer exists and all bets are off.

Dwight (Macon Blair) puts those gun skills to test in Blue Ruin

Dwight (Macon Blair) puts those gun skills to test in Blue Ruin

As much as this is Saulnier’s film, so too is it Blair’s. It’s a refreshing performance, one that has a through-line of everyman authenticity to it. Dwight’s no macho action hero; he’s a broken shell with nothing to live for except to save his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) and her kids from harm. Blair’s saucer-like eyes are deeply expressive and sell the fear and bewilderment his character endures throughout.

Concluding his Kickstarter pitch, Saulnier staked his career on the promise that he’d do good by those willing to put their faith in his film. After watching Blue Ruin, it’s safe to say that faith has been hugely rewarded.

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24 comments

  1. Mark Walker · May 18, 2014

    Nice one, Mark. Just caught this myself the other night and I absolutely love it. It did remind me of Blood Simple but this is still a great film in it’s own right. I’m currently doing a review myself but suffering from writers block at the moment.

    Nice info on the Kickstarter deal. I didn’t know that.

    • Three Rows Back · May 18, 2014

      Steal the info buddy! Happy to share. It’s awesome isn’t it? Looking forward to your review when you’re ready!

      • Mark Walker · May 18, 2014

        I’ve got the majority of it done but feel that I’ve not quite done it justice yet. You can be my judge on that when the time comes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        At the moment, I’m jut happy to watch films without the pressure of dissecting an writing about them, if you know what I mean?

      • Three Rows Back · May 18, 2014

        I do mate. My output has been more sporadic of late for various reasons. Sometimes it’s nice to just watch a film without thinking of what to say about it.

  2. mikeyb @ screenkicker · May 18, 2014

    Wow,I’ve heard great things about this. Great review!

  3. CMrok93 · May 18, 2014

    A very real, down-to-Earth, gritty kind of revenge thriller that we don’t see too much of. Shame, too, because these kinds of movies can be awesome, when done right. This was one of those instances. Good review.

  4. Popcorn Nights · May 18, 2014

    Sounds great! I am really looking forward to seeing this. Hoping to catch it at some point this week.

    • Three Rows Back · May 18, 2014

      I’m confident you’ll love it. Look forward to reading your thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Popcorn Nights · May 23, 2014

        Thought I’d come back and re-read now I’ve seen it. Great film and you definitely do it justice here.

      • Three Rows Back · May 24, 2014

        Aaaaah, much appreciated friend.

  5. Consumed by Film · May 19, 2014

    Excellent review mate, I’m in complete agreement. This is blunt, uncompromising and sombre. I think it’s tremendous!

    Adam.

  6. Beer Movie · May 19, 2014

    Great review. I really liked this film as well. Wouldn’t consider it quite modern classic level myself, but can definitely see how you could come to that conclusion. Kickstarter info was really great as well.

    • Three Rows Back · May 19, 2014

      Thanks buddy. I may have got carried away with the modern classic tag but I genuinely loved it.

  7. Naomi · May 19, 2014

    Reviews of this film are popping up everywhere! I guess I have to dodge spoilers and watch it soon ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Three Rows Back · May 19, 2014

      I made a point of trying not to spoil anything. I hate it when people do that. Check it out soon my friend.

  8. theipc · May 19, 2014

    Very nice!! I have something coming out for this tomorrow!!

  9. ruth · May 19, 2014

    Whilst I trust you that this is a worthwhile film, I’m generally not into revenge movies. Not really my cup of tea Mark, hope you understand ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Three Rows Back · May 19, 2014

      Ruuuuthhh! You’re denying yourself a quality viewing experience. Still, I understand what you’re saying.

  10. Tom · May 20, 2014

    Okay the excitement for this is really starting to build for me. This is a great review and makes this sound like a pretty vicious sitting! I like the sounds of it. And the comparisons to No Country are uncanny! Those posters, wow. They are almost identical! And that bit of info about this film’s funding is really cool. Great to hear it literally pays off!!!

  11. vinnieh · May 20, 2014

    Nice review, looks like a movie that I’d like.

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