Release Date: 2nd May 2014
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb
The desire to inflict suffering on someone who has wronged you can be a powerful emotion. From Greek tragedies to modern day graphic novels, stories of retribution have long existed in great works of fiction. It can inspire the over-the-top theatrics that’s led to a host of caped crusaders, or act as a nasty form of wish fulfilment. There is nothing so extravagant on display in Blue Ruin. Instead director Jeremy Saulnier delivers a quiet lesson on the poisonous nature of revenge with this vicious slice of Americana.
Macon Blair plays Dwight, a homeless drifter whose hound dog expression of innocence masks the inner rage that has haunted him for many years. When his parents’ murderer is released from prison, he embarks on a mission to settle the score. Complications arise when the family of his intended victim don’t take too kindly to his vigilante behaviour. They believe in an eye for an eye, and like Dwight, they prefer to handle their problems in-house.
What follows is a gripping game of cat and mouse as the wronged parties parry and thrust trying to gain the upper-hand. Dwight proves to be a fascinating subject as both hunter and hunted. He seemingly possesses a tactical brain when trying to stay ahead of his enemies, but lacks the practical skills to effectively pull off his plans. It adds a vein of jet-black humour throughout, watching him work it is clearly amateur hour, and everyone knows it. And yet telling the story exclusively from his perspective proves a canny decision for bringing out the most tension; it’s never clear exactly how things will pan out.
There are no winners to be found here. For Saulnier, Dwight’s quest for closure is an exercise in futility. The foggy back roads and windswept sand dunes are quintessentially American, yet the story of mistaken identities and an impending sense of doom is pure Sophocles. His vision of the United States is a nihilistic one, simmering in bitterness and hatred, its population just looking for an excuse to lash out. We are offered just the smallest of glimmer of hope of the cycle being broken, but for the most part it is a bleak world we live in. A haunting and memorable piece, with a message best summarised in the words of Douglas Horton; “While seeking revenge, dig two graves- one for yourself.”