Broken and homeless, Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) spends his life eating out of bins and sleeping in his car. Upon discovering that Wade Cleland, the man responsible for his parents murder, is to be released from jail, he sets out for revenge, killing Wade and setting into motion a series of events that can only lead to one logical conclusion.
Unflinching and achingly brutal, Blue Ruin is an incredibly sparse piece of filmmaking, almost silent for much of the runtime, save for the background noises and the impressively crisp ambient score. Information on Dwights predicament and motives are slowly drip fed, until we realise the seriousness of his intentions, and furthermore, the pain that will surely be coming his way.
The revenge thriller is a well worn genre, and for the most part Blue Ruin sticks to a blue print that works, while injecting an indie freshness by focussing on the human story, the morality of such a venture and the effect it has on not just the killer, but his loved ones and even those he is seeking to destroy.
We follow Dwight through every scene, seeing everything through his eyes, feeling everything he feels. Macon Blair is mesmerising in the role, giving Dwight a single minded drive that in the hands of another actor could so easily be hammy and overly emotional. Turning from beach living Stig of the Dump to mild-looking yet brutal killer in the blink of an eye, he manages to makes us empathise with him, despite every questionable deed.
Jeremy Saulnier directs and photographs the film with an efficiency and naturalism that one wouldn’t naturally associate with such a brutal thriller, providing calm and beautiful scenic imagery to directly counter the genuinely nervy tension and agonising violence that punctuates the rest of the action. Much like the lead character, the film itself calmly and methodically works its way to the logical conclusion, dragging us by the hand. It’s compelling yet also jarringly distancing.
The supporting cast are mostly fine in their roles playing second fiddle to Blair, particularly Amy Hargreaves as his sister, lending the film a humanity and warmth where otherwise it could have come off as overly mechanical and soulless. Devin Ratray also provides some humour as a childhood friend with an unexpected armoury, although it’s arguable that his scenes veer too sharply away into humour and detract from the naturalism cultivated so carefully elsewhere in the film.
So too, the denouement lacks the punch it so sorely deserves given how sharp the preceding journey was, with the methodical narrative collapsing and losing momentum as Dwight holes himself up for the final showdown.
Nonetheless, Blue Ruin is an immensely impressive thriller for those with the nerve to stick it out, and can certainly show its bigger budget siblings a thing or two about how to craft a engrossing narrative based around one man, a car and his desire for revenge.