Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Blue Ruin (2014) ****

R, 90 min.
Director/Writers: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidné Anderson

“Blue Ruin” is one of those independent films that wears the blood, sweat and tears of the filmmakers’ efforts right out on every frame. It’s a dismal story about a family broken by the choices of the previous generation. If you’ve seen Jeff Nichols’ brilliant debut “Shotgun Stories”, you have an idea of the subject matter. “Blue Ruin” isn’t as stylish as Nichols’ film and it’s much more brutal and devastating.

We meet a homeless man living near a costal boardwalk. Dwight’s routine seems pretty well set as he culls the beach and garbage bins for what he needs to live. He lives in an abandoned car that proves to be a bit of an insight into his resourcefulness after his direction is shifted by some disturbing news. The news is delivered by a police officer, who obviously knows him and cares more about his well being than his vagrancy.

Dwight sets off to find a man who has been released from prison on parole. The details of Dwight’s grudge with this man are slow to be revealed, but I don’t think it is a spoiler to reveal that this man is responsible for the death of his parents. Dwight meticulously stalks this man and his family, and to reveal any more would be too much of a spoiler. It’s important to reflect, however, that it has been made clear that Dwight has no history of violence and beyond his grudge with this man seems very innocent as portrayed by Macon Blair.

Dwight is a very isolated person due to the tragedy that befell his family. He is not without a support system. He has just chosen to reject that support. His sister still lives in the same town, where the man’s family still runs a high profile limousine business. They may have their hands in some more organized criminal activity, but this is a crime family like the one depicted in the backwoods movie “Winter’s Bone”. They place their gun racks prominently on their vehicles instead of wearing Versace suits.

While there is great tension in the set up to the story, there is also a great deal of tension delivered in the fact that this dark business in which he engages is not Dwight’s calling. He’s not Bruce Willis doling out Hollywood justice. His actions sink just as deep as those perpetrated against him and he is not as skilled as his opponents. His success is dependent more on his deep passionate desperation to make them pay rather than any sort of skill or even luck.

“Blue Ruin” is a remarkable dark modern noir by writer/director Jeremy Saulnier. His sophomore effort after the horror flick “Murder Party”, I would expect great things from this director considering his efficient story telling. This film is proof that the independent film market is as strong as it ever was, recalling such impressive indies as “Blood Simple” and “Red Rock West”. This is one of the best films of the year.   

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