With an eerie vulnerability about him Macon Blair is sensational in Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin.
"I know this is personal and that's how you'll fail. No speeches. You point the gun, you shoot."
Sucked into Dwight’s lonely vagrancy, sporting a raggled beard and dirtied clothing, Saulnier drafts a wholly desperate image of a man at odds with his previous self. Never addressed directly we’re left to ponder the origins of Dwight’s push-come-to-shove can-do attitude as he leaps from vacant bathtubs and rummages in dumpsters.
Root out that paragraph and we’re left with Dwight the hobo. But this is no Hobo With a Shotgun set on exploiting the revenge thriller the same way Jason Eisener did with b-movie vigilantism. Instead we’re left with a meticulous character driven journey that pulls some styled punches but never strays too far from it’s genred roots.
Woken from a deep slumber by the news that his parents’ killer, Carl Cleland, is to be freed in a plea deal Dwight wastes no time pulling himself together and hitting the road with his intentions as clear as day. Swooping shots of isolated valley roads stand out as we’re drawn further and further into Dwight’s curious life.
Until we catch an unnerving stare from deep within those emotive brown eyes the realisation that Dwight intends to kill Clelend is hard to believe. But lying in wait outside prison Dwight swells with emotion as Cleland walks free.
Starting up his ‘blue ruin Pontiac’ Dwight sets off in covert pursuit until his victim pulls into his release party in the back of the family limosine. Dwight, the polite vagrant, turns emotional assassin as he breaks all revenge thriller boundaries.
With the first real conversation coming in at a little over 25 minutes Saulnier’s craft is outstanding. Not only does the minimal exposition perfectly mirror Dwight’s raw self-dependency but it builds an unwavering tension around Dwight’s fatalistic journey.
No more so is this evidenced by Saulnier in a later scene using a slight biblical reference pertaining to The Last Supper. Settling down for a quiet meal in a roadside diner Dwight poiltely sips down a pseudo-red alongside a plate of bread rolls. A momentary glimpse into the forthcoming consequences of Dwight’s earlier actions.
Saulnier’s, critically well-received thriller come neo-noir exudes an air of Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters in the protagonist’s unforeseen battle for survival. However, Saulnier’s bumbling, seemingly impossibly streetwise Dwight, turns the tables on his pursuers in the hope of securing a peaceful conclusion to a mysterious family feud.
Recognising the level of his involvement his actions have determined Dwight reluctantly seeks the help of an old school friend with Devin Ratray putting in a brilliant turn as gun recluse Ben Gaffney. Adding some light comic relief with effortless timing and scripting Saulnier’s casting of Gaffney is pure genius and offers one of the brightest sparks of Blue Ruin‘s enduring achievement.
Saulnier’s sly wink at the genre is ironed out with perfectly executed ironic stupor as Dwight closes his final dealings with the redneck Clelands. Ignoring Gaffney’s earlier advice the true extent of Dwight’s familial obligation is truly devastating making the irony of his speech even darker. A truly emblematic sequence that highlights the masterful tone of Saulnier’s craft as Dwight succumbs to the violence he sought to avoid.
Blue Ruin is not exactly a reinvention of the revenge genre, offering little sparks of originality along the way but it is certainly a refreshing reminder of what the revenge thriller is capable of seen through fresh eyes.
A truly Brilliant piece of film making with stunning cinematography and a stand out performance from Macon Blair. Another Recommend for the ‘Because I Watched…‘ feature to behold.
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