TIFF 2013: Blue Ruin Review


It’s not his house. The man in the bath scrambles out of the tub, clothes under his arm and his keys around his neck. His hair is matted and unkempt, matching his knotted beard. He has no friends, and spends his days walking around wordlessly in a semi-catatonic state, salvaging scraps of discarded food from dumpsters and sleeping on the beach in a rusty blue car. The day he snaps back to reality is the day he discovers the man who murdered his parents will be released from prison. He suddenly has a purpose – vengeance.

Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin is a lean revenge thriller. It has moments of savage bloodshed and yet it somehow evolves into a subtle meditation on the futility of violence. It’s the perfect intersection of arthouse and genre fare.

Dwight (Macon Blair) becomes inert after the death of his parents. The film doesn’t spell everything out for us – all the dialogue is carefully parsed out in infrequent spoonfuls – but we’re given enough clues to piece together what’s occurred to Dwight before he devolved into a homeless drifter. When his parents died, his life screeched to a halt. Everything became meaningless, and he floated away from his friends and the lone surviving remnant of his family – his sister. It almost seems like he spent the intervening years biding his time, waiting for his opportunity for vengeance, although ironically, he is woefully unequipped for the task.

Saulnier makes his protagonist a hapless assassin. He can’t shoot a person from two feet away. He tries to steal a weapon but breaks it instead. And he can’t escape a scrap without getting viciously wounded himself. It’s a smart choice, and Saulnier wisely plays up the character’s ineptitude for suspense and comic relief in equal measure. The film is realistic in its portrayal of a mild-mannered individual dishing out violence for the first time. He makes a lot of mistakes, like anyone in his position would. There’s a really interesting moment in the film when Dwight gets some important (and useful) advice from a friend that he doesn’t listen to. When he doesn’t listen to it, and why he doesn’t listen to it, is central to the film’s theme. You’ll know the moment when you see it.

Blue Ruin is a great film that effectively uses silence, an enigmatic protagonist, and what seems to be a straightforward plot for revenge into something much deeper and complex. Apparently eOne Entertainment and RADiUs-TWC picked up the rights. I hope they realize that they have something pretty special on their hands, and give this film the release it deserves.

Grade: A



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