It’s absolutely great. A couple of superb films hit the festival circuit to wild applause in 2013, only to be dumped into limited theatrical runs early this year. One of them was Jonathan Glazer’s astonishing “Under the Skin”, which grossed roughly 2 and a half million bucks at the North American box office. And that starred Scarlett Johansson! No matter—there’s no accounting for mass audience taste—, “Under the Skin” will most likely hold a spot on my year-end Top Ten list. “Blue Ruin”, on the other hand, has grabbed only 2 and a half hundred thousand at the box office since it opened in late April. It hit theaters and VOD on the same day, and it has now been released on Blu-ray and DVD. “Blue Ruin” will also very likely appear on my Top Ten list come January. It’s a compact, morose little thriller containing a marvelously controlled performance from Macon Blair as Dwight. Director Jeremy Saulnier has fashioned a noir that had me recalling Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” from 1971, but is also quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s discipline and economy are outstanding.
We meet Dwight(a compelling Mr. Blair)in a bathtub, but we quickly realize that he is a homeless vagrant that scrounges for food on a local Virginia beach, and lives out of his shambles of a car. Soon, puzzle pieces are added that educate the audience as to why Dwight is the way he is, and how he got that way. An interview with a police officer informs us that the adult Dwight has suffered the loss of his mother and father some years ago, via a vicious crime. When the cop informs Dwight that the murderer is about to be paroled, he suddenly springs into action, with revenge on his mind. After a fleeting choice leaves him injured and desperate, Dwight soon has the killer’s family on his tail. While Dwight has let the murder of his parents completely take over his life, he also has a sister(a very good Amy Hargreaves)that has moved on from the horrid episode and is raising a family of her own. On the run from the dreaded Cleland clan, Dwight promptly ascertains that his actions may put his sibling in danger too. So, with the help of childhood friend Ben(“Home Alone”‘s very own Buzz, Devin Ratray…excellent!), Dwight decides to do whatever he can to keep the Clelands far away from the only family he has left.
You shouldn’t confuse “Blue Ruin” with some generic action genre piece…it isn’t even close to that. However, it is gruesome and bloody and unbearably tense, over a tight 90 minutes. The director also wrote the screenplay and was the film’s cinematographer, and funded the production through a Kickstarter campaign. Its success story was confirmed when it won a major prize at Cannes in 2013. What’s so impressive about “Blue Ruin” throughout, is its utter unpredictability. Often you’ll feel you know where the plot is headed…and then it takes a vicious left turn. The movie keeps you on-your-toes, and yes—if I must confirm—on the edge-of-your-seat. Need more convincing? One of the evil Cleland family members is portrayed by none other than fiftysomething Eve “Jan Brady” Plumb! I didn’t even realize it was her. There’s no “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”, and Ms. Plumb gives a very convincing performance. “Blue Ruin” is taut, mesmerizng and tragic, and it would be a crime if folks didn’t discover its excellence via home viewing. My Blu-ray watch was riveting from start to finish. This film is unforgettable.