There’s a scene in Blue Ruin where our vengeful hero, Dwight Evans (Macon Blair), is shot in the leg by a crossbow. Hobbling to a late-night store, he purchases pliers and a hacksaw and sets about some self-surgery. Only he’s not Rambo and Blue Ruin is not your everyday, predictable thriller. Cut to Dwight screaming and stumbling to hospital, his ragged leg now five times worse than it was before.
A hit on the festival circuit, Jeremy Saulnier’s low-budget stunner starring his best mate from school is a compelling hybrid. It starts off as a slow-burn character study, offering little exposition as we track a bedraggled homeless guy with mental health issues. Then the mists of mystery drift away and Blue Ruin morphs into a revenge thriller splattered with momentsof black comedy and existential horror.
The plot, when it finally reveals itself, sees Dwight looking to take some Old Testament vengeance when the man who killed his parents is released from jail. But pulling a trigger is no simple feat and all is not as black and white as it first appeared. If Dwight was after closure he’s about to miss the target by some distance, while the whole figurative mess turns literal as violence begets violence and Dwight finds himself taking on a clan of gun-toting rednecks.
Along the way, Virginian native Saulnier makes bullseye comments on US gun culture and carefully undercuts the genre thrills by zooming in on the psychological after-effects of taking lives. Lensing the movie himself, he eschews stylistic quirks that might distract from his story and characters, and instead holds his handsome compositions as surely as the drama holds the viewer.
Funny, violent and lobbing narrative curveballs like a young Schwarzenegger tossing hand grenades, Blue Ruin exerts its tension so covertly you’ll be shocked to discover that gasping noise in the cinema is being made by you.
A cunning, suspenseful thriller that bears comparison to the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple, Blue Ruin is an impossible-to-ignore calling card from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. Hollywood awaits.