Breathing new life into a deadly genre, Jeremy Saulnier brings a modern take on the revenge movie with his second feature as director, Blue Ruin. Thrown into rural America we meet Dwight, a wandering hobo who could pass for Zach Galifianakis, breaking into houses for baths and living out of his bullet-holed blue Ford. It’s this nomadic existence that gets punctured and irrevocably altered when a prisoner is suddenly released.
This mysterious inmate sparks a wild streak in Dwight whose bumbling handling of his murder triggers across family feud that lay dormant for years, dragging him back to his family hometown and in amongst reality in the name of vengeance. A newly clean shaven Dwight is swiftly at the centre of the retributive mess, becoming an unwilling protagonist in the escalating violence in the hope of finding a truce.
It’s a perfectly taught plot which allows Saulnier to play with the tension, something he does with gusto for the suspense-filled the opening 45 minutes. From then on there’s a sense of tonal change as Dwight’s story is slowly revealed and further light is shed on the feud. This is never done with clunky dialogue, the director opting instead for a more lo-fi approach taking us with Dwight on his unintentional guns and survival adventure. The longer we follow, the more layers of mystery get lifted and the truth revealed, often finding out details – much like he does – along the way.
There’s humour too, dark humour that never quite reaches the lofty (and aspired to) heights of the Coen brothers but offers some needed relief from the early onslaught of tightly coiled tension.
Fans of Jeff Nichols may take to Blue Ruin, following, as it does, his knack of taking the unknown landscapes of rural mid-America and projecting onto it these dark characters that lie there free to roam. Those who saw Nichols’ Mud at Sundance last year can trace a direct line to this year’s showing of Blue Ruin where men are men, guns are everywhere and nobody ever calls the cops.
Saulnier’s previous work as a cinematographer is evident throughout, inflicting the film with an indie sensibility and camerawork that is drawn to perfect lighting. It’s also a paean to good storytelling; the mysterious first half keeps viewers on the edge of their seat before being given hints and traces of the story’s origin followed by an inevitably and suitably bloody conclusion.
[rating=4] | Matthew Walsh
Thriller | USA, 2013 | 15 | 2nd May 2014 (UK) |Picturehouse Entertainment | Dir.Jeremy Saulnier |Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves