The most memorable aspect of the film isn't in the revenge or the bloodshed spilled in its telling. It comes from the steady transformation of a down-and-out vagabond into an inexperienced and reluctant killer and then again into a clear-headed peacemaker who wants the senselessness to end.
Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier creates an intensely suspenseful yarn with a patient reveal of why his unassuming homeless protagonist has dropped out from society. As his portrait begins to crystalize during a series of happenstance events, so does the the outlook of the audience.
Blue Ruin is a portrait of a modern tragedy.
The film opens by establishing the protagonist. Dwight (Macon Blair) as a vagrant who breaks into homes to shower, dives for food in boardwalk Dumpsters, and sleeps in a broken down car on a beach. His existence, however, is surprisingly self-selected.
When local law enforcement informs him that Carl Cleland (Brent Werzner), a man from his past, is being released from prison, Dwight conveys a desperate urgency to leave town. After producing a hidden car battery and small stash of cash, he heads toward the prison where Cleland will be released.
After watching a reunion between Cleland and two more family members, Dwight follows them to roadhouse saloon where he hopes to even the score. What happens next sets up the rest of the film.
The Cleland family, well-known for living outside the law, attempts to turn the tables on Dwight by transforming a personal fight into a family feud where everyone with similar bloodlines is fair game. And while the more obvious mechanism is the cautionary tale that revives Gandhi's warning that "an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind," Saulnier weaves in subplots that touch on friendship, family, and how our perception and reality cannot always be so easily reconciled.
Aside from the story, the cast helps make the film feel iconic. Blair seems like an unlikely lead on the surface, but his portrayal is near perfect by creating a character who is slightly unstable, obviously intelligent, and equally out of his depth. His performance has effectively rebooted his career.
Another short but sharp outstanding performance comes from Dwight's friend Den Gaffney (Devin Ratray), who is better equipped but less enduring to do the job. And while the antagonists are generally portrayed as stereotypical rednecks, Teddy (Kevin Kolak), Carl (Brent Werzner), Hope (Stacey Rock), and William (David Thompson) all contrast perfectly with Dwight and his sister (Amy Hargreaves). Eve Plumb also deserves a nod for her surprise appearance as the Cleland matriarch.
A few more graphs about writer-director Jeremy Sauliner.
It was the first film he had completed since his scrappy horror satire Murder Party in 2007. As such, Sauliner (and Blair) both considered this film to be a swan song — meaning: either the film would reboot their careers or they would reboot their dreams.
Blue Ruin By Jeremy Sauliner Shoots 8.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Saulnier relied on financing from his wife's retirement fund, his own American Express card, and a last-minute Kickstarter campaign. He and Blair also relied on friends and family for shooting locations to keep everything on the cheap. But you would never know it watching the film.
The esoteric film is a revenge movie in appearance, tragedy at its heart, and darkly comic in its presentation. You can rent or buy Blue Ruin from from iTunes or catch Blue Ruin [HD] on Amazon. Blue Ruin is what you want an indie film to be. The film has a Facebook page.