Directed by Jeremy Saulnier (2013)
What happens when a somewhat unhinged loner acts his long-held fantasy of revenge, in a part of America where guns are everywhere and tempers run hot? BLUE RUIN is an excellent, blood-fueled cycle of revenge story, set below the Mason-Dixon in Virginia and elsewhere, and is an indie that should have been seen by more people. It’s amazingly tense from start to finish, and doesn’t waste a whole lot of time setting the mood, feel and character for the story before ramping up into violence and dread.
Dwight (Macon Blair) is a bearded drifter, winging it somewhere between the mid-Atlantic and the south. He bathes by breaking into houses; he sleeps in his car and forages in garbage for leftovers. Despite this, he’s easily located by authorities (who clearly know him), who let him know that the man who killed his parents many years earlier has about to be released from prison. That’s it; a knife is procured, a stakeout is set; and before the newly-freed creep has had even a few hours of freedom to breathe, he’s shivved in the neck in a barroom lavatory by a nervous, hyperventilating Dwight, who then needs to escape the murderer’s gun-toting family in a hurry.
From this point forward, no one’s safe – not Dwight, nor his sister and her two little daughters, nor the crazy hillbilly family out to kill Dwight and his kin for the murder of one of their own. The semantics of who-did-what-to-whom to merit all this bloodlust pop up a few times and complicate matters a little, but are fairly incidental to what, at its base, is a kill or be killed story. There are numerous indie touches such as lack of reverence payed to the often pastoral scenery, the admirable resistance to analysis of Dwight’s lonely and inward-turned persona; and even some jump-cut comedy, such as when Dwight tries his own painstaking, agonizingly slow personal surgery to remove a crossbow arrow from his leg before a quick leap forward as he stumbled into an emergency room, completely unsuccessful, and passes out.
While it may be a bit of wishful thinking on my part, I felt that Saulnier is also making a decidedly anti-gun statement in his quite violent film. Guns are fetishized repeatedly here. Gun racks and cases are present in multiple homes and always ready to be unlocked in case some murderous intruder might come stumbling in. Because virtually no one in “Blue Ruin” is untouched by their ample availability, it begs the question how these doofus Hatfields & McCoys might have solved their grievances had the ability to shoot them away not been so beckoning. I see this film having a deserved long life in VOD and revival – if film revival will even be a thing ten years from now – and a jump into richer pastures for Saulnier, whom I hope will then reject them and instead stay focused on highly personal, gritty and infinitely exciting films like this one.