Looking Back at 2010s Films: Blue Ruin (2014)

1 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films–Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin. I didn’t review this one before–consider this a new one.

You know the old saying “violence only begets violence”? “Blue Ruin” is a grisly and effective example, showing one uncompromising act of violence after another.

It begins when Dwight (Macon Blair), a beach bum, is informed that the man that murdered his parents 20 years ago is getting released from prison. He heads back to his hometown, follows the murderer and his family, and…kills him. Simple as that, right? Wrong.

I mean, he does go through with it. But after that, he realizes he dug himself a deeper hole than he started. The killer’s family hasn’t alerted the authorities, and so the lives of Dwight’s sister and her family are in jeopardy. Meaning, he has further to go if he wants to protect them and himself.

One of the strengths of “Blue Ruin” is its ability for visual storytelling. There are a few dialogue-heavy scenes, used for characterization purposes, but for the most part, we’re just seeing Dwight think and act his way through whatever he has on his mind. (Dwight hardly even has a line in the first 20 minutes or so.) It’s quiet, bitter, mysterious, sinister, uncomfortable, and brilliant direction–the same kind that took me to a dark, scary night in director Saulnier’s next film, “Green Room” (one of my favorite horror films of the decade–I’ll get to that one soon enough).

Obviously, “Blue Ruin” isn’t a conventional revenge story, but what kept surprising me throughout the film were all the little things that can (and did) go wrong in this emotionally damaged and seemingly gentle man’s supposedly simple task to exact revenge against the man got away from justice after murdering his family. It’s just not as simple as “kill the guy and life will go on.” Where it goes from there is very disturbing, especially when he realizes what he’s going to have to do next to others…and to himself. (The self-surgery-attempt scene…ugh!) The anti-violent message isn’t preachy in the slightest–it’s just presented in a way that the point is made effectively…especially when Dwight sees for the first time just what a bullet can do to a person.

I’m glad Saulnier and producer/actor Macon Blair didn’t give up on filmmaking after their first film “Murder Party” (despite being a crazy entertaining thrill ride) didn’t do much for them. They put the dream on hold for a while, raising families and whatnot, but then they decided to go for it again. So they put together a successful Kickstarter campaign (and also collected from Saulnier’s savings) to get money for the film’s budget, despite Saulnier being hesitant to ask for help. What resulted was a successful thriller in festivals, in limited theatrical release, on VOD, and led to successful careers for both of them. That’s an example of perseverance right there.

Cheers to not letting the dream die!

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