Sundance 2014: BLUE RUIN Review

     January 18, 2014

blue-ruin-slice

Fatalism is inherent in the revenge drama.  No one gets away clean.  Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin brings a unique spin to the revenge film by acknowledging the inevitable blowback and responding with a sad, reluctant sigh.  The movie is ominous, tragic, and intriguingly defeatist.  There’s no code or noble intentions.  The film doesn’t relish vengeance.  Rather, it sorrowfully accepts its ugliness and weakness, but without ever losing the tension of violent retribution.

Dwight (Macon Blair) is a homeless man who quietly lives out his days, relaxing on the beach, sleeping in his bullet-ridden blue car, and breaking into unoccupied homes when he needs to bathe.  When he learns that his parents’ murderer Wade Cleland is about to be released from prison after serving his twenty-year plea bargain, Dwight goes to take his revenge.  However, the vengeance doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, and the meek but resourceful Dwight must figure out how to protect his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) from the wrath of the Cleland clan.

blue-ruin

Saulnier skillfully weaves an ominous yet resigned tone from the silence spread throughout the picture.  The soft-spoken Dwight even says to Sam at one point, “I’m not used to talking this much.”  The movie is a restrained whisper, the kind someone makes when they’re really mad, and it’s so much more terrifying than if they were just wild and yelling.  But the silence is always tinged with sadness.  Saulnier’s restraint works wonders and gives the film its unique tone.

Despite the melancholy that hangs over the picture, it’s also suffused with wonderful little moments of dark comedy and shocking violence.  Neither is done to titillate or alleviate, but to play into the absurdity of the situation and make sure that the violence—which is quite gory—carries weight.  This is not an easy task for Dwight, and the way the situation spirals out of control only creates further demands of a man who is surprisingly resourceful, but emotionally reluctant to unleash further bloodshed.  It’s rare to see a depressed avenger.

blue-ruin-2

Saulnier has written himself a captivating protagonist with Dwight, and Blair is superb in the role.  His sad, forlorn eyes never display anger at his victims or satisfaction with his acts.  Dwight has almost been in stasis for decades.  We can see that his inability to cope with his parents’ murder has wrecked his life, and his life has led to this.  He hasn’t trained or prepared for it, but this revenge is the slow slide towards the inevitable.  Blair masterfully displays Dwight’s resignation without ever making it appear like indifference.  He’s a man walking to the gallows, but forced to kill some people on the way there.

Blue Ruin doesn’t blow apart the revenge genre, and that’s not its goal.  It’s not a subversion of the genre or a critique, but a refreshingly welcome change-up that brings a new tone and plays that tone well.  Revenge has never been so desolate, and even though the film can suck the air out of the room and play tense moments for all they’re worth, it’s the anguish in Blue Ruin that lingers.

Rating: B+

Click here for all of our Sundance 2014 coverage.  Click on the corresponding links for my reviews:

And click on the corresponding links for Adam’s reviews:

Around The Web

Latest News

WONDER WOMAN: Chris Pine in Talks to Play Love Interest Steve Trevor

Gal Gadot starts in the upcoming superhero film.

Jason Reitman to Write and Direct BEEKLE for DreamWorks Animation

After a string of box office misfires, DreamWorks Animation and the 'Juno' filmmaker will join forces in what looks to be a new creative direction.

TRANSFORMERS Prequel in the Works; Michael Bay Returning for T5?

The next 'Transformers' movie could be yet another sequel directed by Bay.

Filming Begins on Doug Liman’s MENA, Starring Tom Cruise; Full Cast Revealed

Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, and more join the 'Edge of Tomorrow' reunion pic.

DOCTOR STRANGE: Tilda Swinton in Talks to Play the Ancient One

While they're at it, Marvel should probably just let Swinton play *all* the roles in 'Doctor Strange'.

COP CAR Trailer: Don’t Mess with Creepy Kevin Bacon

Two young boys take Kevin Bacon's cop car out for a joy ride, then soon realize it was a very, very bad idea.

HARRY POTTER Spinoff Shortlist Includes Kate Upton, Saoirse Ronan

Spoiler Alert: Everyone wants to be in 'Harry Potter'.

PAWN SACRIFICE Trailer: Tobey Maguire Is Chess Prodigy Bobby Fischer

The docudrama hits select theaters on September 18th.

New JURASSIC WORLD Clip Introduces Chris Pratt: The Raptor Whisperer

When your velociraptors need obedience training, give Chris Pratt a call.

25 Things to Know About Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, Plus Over 100 Photos

Disneyland turned the big 6-0, and we were onhand to learn about the new shows, ride upgrades, merchandise, and what's to come.

Page 1 of 3,96712345...102030...Last »