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USA 2013
Directed by
Jeremy Saulnier
87 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin is a nifty indie revenge thriller that uses all of its limited resources to deliver a fresh take on a very popular genre of American film. Macon Blair, who belongs in the Paul Giammatti school for the not-so-handsome plays a homeless man, Dwight, who decides to seek retribution for the murder of his parents, after the alleged murderer is released from prison. He sets about his task with surprising efficiency, dispatching his target with little trouble but the latter’s hillbilly family, the Clelands, adhere to the time-honoured eye-for-an-eye tenet and come after Dwight and his sister. So Dwight decides that he’ll get in first.

Director-writer and cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier’s film is very much a film geek’s film  - the sort of exercise that Quentin Tarantino would enjoy – a bloody tongue-in-cheek skewing of an inherently tacky genre (I have not seen Saulnier’s first film, 2007’s Murder Party, but its title says enough).

Blair is excellent in the central role, starting off as a shaggy vagrant picking through rubbish bins but soon transformed into a man with a deadly purpose.  And that is where the geek factor comes into play, The beauty of the film is that he is not miraculously morphed into a standard Hollywood killing machine, but remains throughout a fairly clumsy individual whose success is due more to good fortune than good management. Indeed he is rather repelled by the violence but is held to his purpose by his unshakeable conviction that the Clelands are bad people who will hurt his sister.

Revenge films are often dragged down by their vainglorious heroics but Blue Ruin is much smarter than that. Indeed, at times it appears like a cautionary tale and there is certainly no triumph in the vengeance extracted. If there is one weakness to the film it is that the Clelands are barely characterized beyond the hillbilly stereotype.  This is not in itself a problem but it tends to leave the film somewhat of a one-man show. The only other character of significance is Ben (Devin Ratray), an affable former school chum and firearm aficionado who helps Dwight on his righteous way.  His presence gives the film a bit of the colour (well, other than blood red) that is in the main steadfastly absent.

The best films coming out of America these days are almost invariably small ones. Blue Ruin certainly deserves to be counted amongst them.




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