BLUE RUIN (director/writer: Jeremy Saulnier; cinematographer: Jeremy Saulnier; editor: Julia Bloch; music: Brooke Blair, Will Blair; cast: Macon Blair (Dwight), Devin Ratray (Ben Gaffney), Amy Hargreaves (Sam), Kevin Kolack (Teddy Cleland), Eve Plumb (Kris Cleland), Sandy Barnett (Wade Cleland, Jr.), David W. Thompson (William), Sidné Anderson (Police Officer); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Anish Savjani, Richard Peete, Vincent Savino; Anchor Bay (Radius-TWC); 2013)
“It’s a dark film, with a sicko sense of humor, that’s not for all tastes. But the talented director knows how to keep things tense, taut and exciting.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An art-house Gothic thriller revenge tale, that parodies vigilante violence. The low-budget, well-crafted and excellently photographed atmospheric film, is a well-done indie. It’s crisply directed and written by sophomoric filmmaker and cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier(“Murder Party”). It makes pointed observations of America’s love for guns, the mentally-ill living in the street unsupervised, how screwed-up is the criminal justice system and the danger of holding a long-time grudge with an Old Testament way of solving it by an ‘eye for an eye.’ The title is a reference to the battered blue Pontiac Bonneville our weird vagrant protagonist Dwight (Macon Blair) lives out of.
The thirtysomething scraggly-bearded Dwight parks his Pontiac near a beach in his hometown in rural Virginia, where he recently moved back to. He picks up some coin by collecting plastic bottles. He also crashes into unlocked houses to shower and steal food. A friendly female police officer (Sidné Anderson) tells Dwight of the prison release of the one convicted of murdering his parents twenty years earlier. He thereby works himself up to going after the culprit. Despite a bumbled hit, he knifes to death the ex-con, Wade Cleland Jr. (Sandy Barnett), in the men’s room of a bar. When the vic’s redneck crime family gets his car keys he left at the crime scene and his abandoned car, they discover the car is registered to his sister. Dwight goes to the suburban family home of his estranged sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves), where she lives with her two daughters and tells her about the incident and tells her to go away for awhile. He now disguises himself by taking on the look of a preppy and awaits in sis’s house for the expected retaliation. At the half-hour point the fragile Dwight must fight for his life, as he staves off a bow-and-arrow attack by taking an arrow in the thigh. Dwight reunites with his high school friend Ben Gaffney (Devin Ratray) because he needs a weapon to kill Wade’s nasty brother Teddy (Kevin Kolack) he holds hostage in the trunk of his car. The thriller gets even more seriously violent and funny at this point. Ratray’s quirky hillbilly performance as the gun lover who lets Dwight get one of his weapons he stores in a high school locker is hilarious.
What ensues is the bodies pile-up, thing get goofy comical and the vendetta turns into an absurd bloodbath with no way out. The misguided Dwight is soon bewildered by the turn of events and of the unrelenting violence.
It’s a dark film, with a sicko sense of humor, that’s not for all tastes. But the talented director knows how to keep things tense, taut and exciting. Of note, Blair and Saulnier are childhood friends, from Alexandria, Virginia, who made Super 8 films together since childhood. Macon’s brothers, Brooke and Will provide the disturbing score.
It won at Cannes the FIPRESCI International Critics Award.
REVIEWED ON 12/22/2015 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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