Blue Ruin (Sundance Review)

PLOT: A vagrant's (Macon Blair) quiet existence is destroyed when he discovers that the man who murdered his parents has just been released from prison.

REVIEW: BLUE RUIN does the impossible: it manages to bring something new to the “revenge pic”- a genre that's been in existence practically since the beginning of film. An intriguing mix of an indie southern-gothic vibe, mixed with occasional doses of stylized violence, BLUE RUIN defies categorization. Yes, it's a revenge thriller, but it's also just as much a character study, with Macon Blair's Dwight being one of the most unique protagonists in recent memory.

What's especially interesting is that for much of the film, Blair is alone and thus silent. He's a man of few words even when he interacts with other characters, such as his estranged sister (Amy Hargreaves) and childhood friend (Devin Ratray). When he needs to, he talks and comes off as mild-mannered, and certainly psychologically damaged by the devastation his parents murder had on him as a child, but he's also unexpectedly cunning. Blair also has an interesting face, and it's amazing how simply shaving his beard and changing into some clean clothes later in the film totally modifies his appearance to the extent that he almost seems like another guy.

Director Jeremy Saulnier's already generated a ton of acclaim for his work here, with this playing a berth at both Cannes and the Toronto Film Fest. With Sundance, it's played all the major festivals, and the buzz is well-deserved. It may be deliberately paced, but it's never slow and the story gets very compelling as it goes beyond the revenge formula, casting its gaze on a small-town southern crime cabal, with each member- from the oldest down to the youngest- being so cold blooded they might as well have ice in their veins. Special mention also has to be made of Devin Ratray, who played one of Bruce Dern's deadbeat nephews in NEBRASKA. Here, he plays a childhood friend of Dwight's that helps him out of a jam, and Ratray's performance is a gem, well-conveying a blustery former vet that's gone to seed, and is eager to help his former friend, despite not having seen him for decades.

In addition to both writing and directing the film, Saulnier also shot BLUE RUIN, and befitting the title, it's bathed in the color blue- from the filtered lighting, to the color of one of Dwight's shirts, to the color of his worn-out 1990 Pontiac. The movie is gorgeous, and the production values are high- enough so that The Weinstein Company picked this up for their VOD arm Radius, although a full-on theatrical release would be well-deserved.

BLUE RUIN should hit VOD within a few months, and it's definitely a film people need to be on the lookout for. The revenge genre is always popular, but this one is truly unique, compelling stuff and should not be missed.

Extra Tidbit: Blue Ruin, Aith, Arrow in the Head, review, Sundance review, Sundance 2014, Jeremy Saulnier, Sundance Film Festival, Sundance



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