Rated: R for strong bloody violence, and language. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 2, 2014 Released by: Radius-TWC
This new simmering revenge thriller alternates between quiet and grimness with spareness and moral relativism and succeeds mainly on the plight of the lead nomadic character (who lives in his old blue Pontiac, rummages in dumpsters and breaks into homes to bathe). The premise and composed, measured filmmaking may draw comparisons to some of the Coens' oeuvre or even of late to David Gordon Green's Joe.
Macon Blair is the tortured, despondent, yet resolved Dwight Evans in Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin as the writer-director keeps the camera locked on him for nearly every frame. Dwight has a wide-eyed, wistful look and very hirsute at the outset; watchable in a mysterious, self-destructive way but not that empathetic even when telling his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves of the small-screen smash Homeland) that talking isn't his way.
For many it may be exasperating for a while to get a read on a most disheveled Dwight not out to put Sam and her two young daughters at risk after a police officer friend (Sidne Anderson) breaks the news of the confessed killer (Brent Werzner) of his parents. Old albums and yearbooks may offer some clarity, but a discomforting, taut feel unfolds as an amateur who shaves his beard and cuts his hair takes off from Delaware for his old native rustic Virginia area which is a gun-friendly place for sure.
A rugged redneck clan awaits Dwight, among which is the matriarch as played by Eve Plumb remembered most fondly as Jan on TV's The Brady Bunch. Devin Ratray is the gun-toting changed best-friend of Dwight who stresses an important point that Dwight doesn't take to heart while training him in the use of many rifles. The plotting by Saulnier at this point may go awry after being shocked with scenes involving arrows and knives and brutality in a tavern restroom.
Yet, Blue Ruin shows Saulnier in firm control at least from a technical standpoint as the music adds a potent sense of foreboding and his compositions provide a raw, vivid texture to the decrepit, excruciating strains at the core of a blood feud. The approach and inept nature of Dwight might be too shabby and off-putting to some, but Blue Ruin colors in the strife of estranged family and mortality with hard-boiled, even low-key gloom and doom.