“Blue Ruin” is a prismatically efficient thriller, as daring for its unforgiving violence as its refusal to cater to audience expectations. Take an early sequence, for example (one that will remind many of the similarly tightly-wound “No Country for Old Men”): having suffered a serious injury, the main character, Dwight (Macon Blair), stops at a pharmacy for the tools needed to perform a makeshift surgery -- something he proves entirely unqualified for. This scene, and the wince-inducing one that follows it, both end in a kind of subdued hilarity, as darkly comical as they are outright horrific.
Dwight has been living as a beach vagrant for an unspecified number of years, but before long, we learn of the circumstances that drove him to seek refuge from the world: the twin murder of his parents. The culprit behind their deaths has been released from prison and Dwight is determined to serve what he thinks is due justice. As is the case in most film noirs not all is as it seems and not all goes according to plan.
Operating somewhere between bleak naturalism and restrained poetry, the film is, amazingly, only the second feature from Jeremy Saulnier, who served as writer, director, and cinematographer. Every camera setup is precise, yet breathes with life (or, in some cases, the crimson red of sudden death), and no line of dialogue or physical gesture or visual stroke is wasted. The use of focus throughout speaks to Dwight’s evolving clarity of purpose -- a cue aided by Blair’s introspective and deeply-felt turn, and one of many that make the film ripe for a second viewing. In a just world, the thoroughly excellent “Blue Ruin” would be a career-maker for all involved.
“Blue Ruin” is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and through various On Demand outlets.
Robert Humanick is a contributing writer for slantmagazine.com