A revenge flick of the highest order. The story is straight forward and to the point, but that’s not evident until after the first few scenes unfold with a severe lack of dialogue and a mounting cache of visual hints that draw you in. Ultimately and not long after these beautifully shot establishing scenes does it become apparent that this a Appalachian Mountain/Virginia family vengeance tale, that is to say, an ugly and violent dispute that will not end until one or both sides have paid a violent and bloody price. This is not the first time this story has been told and it won’t be the last, but what makes Blue Ruin so special is the Everyman protagonist who takes us on his journey. Macon Blair plays Dwight, the mysterious bearded drifter who lives in his car and bathes in the ocean. He is believable from beginning to end, making mistakes and gaffs along his bloody path, much like you or I would, unless you’re a trained assassin or a war vet reading this. If he were a bigger name there would be talk of a possible Oscar nomination for this performance. He is simply remarkable and more believable in his pursuit than the vast majority of others who have been tasked with similar roles. You know that thing in movies where I guy gets a bullet or lets say an arrow lodged in his thigh, but he can’t go to the hospital for fear of the cops getting involved? Every time we see this it goes a long way to illustrate how tough the character is, but doesn’t ring true as the grisly closeups force us into feeling this unimaginable pain. A voice in my head is usually yelling, “Just go to the hospital!” A character in a movie has finally heeded that voice’s advice. What also sets this apart from other revenge pics is what’s not there. It’s impressive that we care despite a lack of what’s become the obligatory violent setup that is often used to rile up our bloodlust and beg our protagonist to deliver the deserved and just vengeance. Instead writer/director, Jeremy Saulnier had the tenacity to ask us to take sides and care for a character without any of the facts. And it works, due in large part to the aforementioned vulnerable performance of Macon Blair. Other things to watch for include the most realistic deathblow to be seen since a fire extinguisher met a man’s face in Irreversible (not to worry, this one is far less gruesome than Noe’s) as well as an emotionally charged Eve Plumb who shows us nothing that would remind us of her most celebrated childhood role as the middle sister, Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch. Lastly, don’t miss the comedy. It’s ultra subtle and doesn’t come often, but it’s there, and it’s placed with precision and purpose as a bit of levity is necessary in a movie as tense as this one.
4 0f 5 (Some very hard to watch violence here, but that’s the price for the ultra neorealism that this film delivers.)
Must Watch = 5 0f 5 (See it in the theater if possible/buy it or pay for rental)
Should Watch = 4 of 5 (Worth a theater visit or sending away for)
Could Watch = 3 of 5 (If it’s on a pay channel or streaming for free)
Should Not Watch = 2 of 5 (Only if friends or family insist)
Do Not Watch = 1 of 5 (Don’t allow friends or family to make this mistake)