Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence, and Language
Directed by: Jeremy Saulnier
Written by: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack & Eve Plumb
Director/writer Jeremy Saulnier burst onto the independent filmmaking scene with his low-budget horror comedy MURDER PARTY (a film that I found to be decent, but definitely with its fair share of problems). A good chunk of time has passed since them, but Saulnier has finally returned with his sophomore effort: BLUE RUIN. This less-is-more revenge thriller shows that Saulnier has acquired lots of improvement in storytelling and an eye for the camera over the years. Though I wouldn’t call this movie groundbreaking or amazing, it’s a suspenseful good time for fans of revenge stories.
Dwight Evans is a vagrant living out of his car and scavenging what he can from deserted houses and dirty trash cans. One morning, Dwight is informed that the man responsible for killing his parents has been released from prison. Desperate for a long-deserved vengeance, Dwight arms himself with a knife and travels to off the murderer. Unfortunately, he’s not exactly in expert in the art of killing someone and the young man’s family comes knocking for revenge. A quiet war breaks out as Dwight tries to protect his remaining relatives.
Macon Blair was one of the better parts of MURDER PARTY and he’s given his time to shine here as Dwight. Blair brings the unconventional protagonist to life that leaves you questioning whether or not you should be rooting for him. Dwight is a cold-blooded killer, but can admit to his sins and wants to do right in keeping his family safe. The film gets graphically violent at points, but isn’t a bloodbath from beginning to end though. Instead, there are good stretches that simply build up to the next vicious confrontation between Dwight and another foe. These lapses between the actual revenge make the violence that much more powerful. This isn’t a glamourized or glossy action flick, but rather a gritty story that crawls through the ugly and dirty reality that revenge never leaves anyone clean. It’s a downward spiral of meaningless escalating violence in which two separate families are ripped apart in different ways.
I’m making this movie sound brilliant, but what’s wrong with it you might ask? Sometimes the slow burning pace can trudge to being downright glacial. There are points in this movie where I wished the film would either pick up certain plot developments faster or have a shorter running time. It’s pretty much the same big problem I had with MURDER PARTY, though this movie is superior on every level. The ending also winds up petering out before what should have been an emotionally devastating finale hits. I liked the conclusion, but thought there could have been a lot more milked from it.
BLUE RUIN is a simple, solid revenge thriller that definitely isn’t for everyone. This is a well-shot film about human ugliness and how violence begets violence. The message is as old as time (look at any of Shakespeare’s tragedies if you want examples), but still resonates with power. Both Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair (working together for the second time) have drastically improved in their abilities. Though it’s too long for its own good, BLUE RUIN should satisfy those craving an old-fashioned revenge tale where nobody walks away in a redeemable light.