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‘Blue Ruin’ De-glamorizes the Classic Revenge Plot

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Macon Blair as Dwight Evans in 'Blue Ruin'

Dwight seems to have no other choice —or at least he seems to think he has no choice—but to kill the whole clan to ensure his family’s continued existence. His resources are a busted Pontiac, an absurdly high tolerance for pain and his old vagrant skill of living meekly on the margins of society. One of the many thoughtful touches in Blue Ruin is how many situations Dwight elides merely by being quiet and unassuming. It’s also thrilling to see Dwight cobbling together weapons, warning signals and otherwise MacGyvering his way in and out of trouble while consciously eschewing a Batman-esque arsenal.

Again, not exactly Rambo, but Blair’s performance as Dwight does cause the audience to re-evaluate their judgment on what the average homeless-looking dude is capable of, and what separates him from his more stable, law-abiding relatives (“I’d forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not, you’re just weak,” Dwight’s sister spits at him before fleeing her home).

Like Dwight, much of the movie exists in the shadows, lurking in darkened houses and shady woods. In a nod to the title, the entire film has a bluish pall, so even daylight scenes have a muted wash. Likewise, the plot has few bright spots, despite some bone-dry humor and amusingly on-the-nose social commentary. Even the scenes in which Dwight triumphs—when the audience would typically feel vindicated—don’t have a celebratory tone. Because there is always someone else around the corner, someone pained or grievously injured by whatever tit-for-tat killing has occurred, and that tension lasts until the final frame. When the audience discovers the original sin upon which Blue Ruin’s entire tale is based, it seems absurdly minor compared to the bloodshed it’s caused. Saulnier manages to tie up this heady plot with an ending that feels both crushingly somber and entirely appropriate. The question that will have audiences buzzing as they leave the theater won’t be “was it worth it,” but, “Did they deserve it?”

Blue Ruin (R)

Writ. and dir. Jeremy Saulnier; feat. Macon Blair, Devin Ratray and Amy Hargreaves
Opens May 1 at Santikos Bijou
★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)

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