too early to make proclamations about the best movie of the year, so let’s put
it this way: Blue Ruin has a spot in the top 10 unless 10 other
superlatively spectacular films come out between now and Dec. 31.
first see Dwight (Macon Blair) from a distance, trying to relax in a bathtub.
Then he hears a noise, and within moments he’s bolted from the tub and jumped
out a window, one hand gripping his clothes. It turns out he’s broken into a
summer rental, and the family living there came back early.
is homeless by choice. The blue ruin of the title—his beater Pontiac—is where
he lives most of the time, on a beach in Delaware, where he fishes and digs
food from the trash.
morning a local sheriff tells Dwight that Will Cleland is being released from
prison, and that’s when we learn why Dwight is an antisocial hermit: Will
Cleland may have killed Dwight’s parents years earlier.
sets off on a short road trip to exact revenge, and he murders Will Cleland in
one of the bloodiest, most ruthless and realistic on-screen killings I’ve seen
in years. But Dwight is an amateur killer, and the other Clelands spot him.
Dwight breaks into a local house to clean up and looks for the story on the
news. That’s when he gets really scared. The Clelands don’t report the crime.
Dwight drops in on his older sister to tell him
what’s happened, and he encourages her to leave to town with her two kids. It’s
prescient, too; the Clelands come for revenge and Dwight has to decide whether
he’s going to give up or kill the entire Cleland clan.
sounds morose and twisted, and it’s all those things, but
writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier has bigger ideas than just
crafting a revenge thriller. First, Dwight is such a hapless person that each
time he does something correctly, he also makes a mistake that negates his
progress. Secondly, there’s a touch of mordant humor running throughout that
takes the pressure off lots of the violence. Thirdly, Saulnier wants you to
know: When you kill people, they’re dead. And violence begets violence. And
finally, guns are gross—except when they’re cool.
of the supporting characters, Ben (Devin Ratray, whom you may remember from Home
Alone), says as much, telling Dwight after dispatching a Cleland: “That’s
what bullets do.” It’s a simple statement, and it becomes clearer and clearer
that Dwight hasn’t thought about the consequences of his actions.
Blue Ruin is tense, from the dramatic touches—a body thumping in a car trunk,
waiting in a dark room—to the music to Blair’s performance, which is
outstanding. Blair has a permanently perplexed look that suits Dwight’s
character. He’s always out of his depth.
Blue Ruin moves to a perhaps inevitable conclusion, but the journey to it is
so well done, it’s hard to find fault in the last five minutes. At least the
car still runs.
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
With Macon Blair, Devin Ratray and Eve Plumb
Santa Fe Reporter