First of all, I would like to note that I constantly find myself referring to this movie as “Blue Ribbon.” Thanks, college.
Blue Ruin…HOLY F@#K!! I had heard about this movie maybe a year or so ago, and seeing that it garnered an impressive 96 percent Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I quickly hopped over to my IMDb app to put it on my Watchlist. I must regrettably say that I wasted that year or so of my life not watching this movie.
I thought: Ok, so this is a smaller, independent film, I don’t see any actors I really know on the cast list, nor am I familiar with the director, Jeremy Saulnier (who to this day has only helmed three features); it has to be at least decent given the reviews, and the plot looks kinda cool. I was expecting a slower movie, that built and built to an awesome, explosive climatic conclusion. That seems to be the way most well-received indie action flicks go, right? Well, maybe. But not Blue Ruin. Not in the slightest.
Somehow, someway, this film had my heart nearly beating out of my chest within the first fifteen minutes. It spends give-or-take five minutes examining a seemingly harmless homeless man who slept in his car down by the shore. Quickly we realize that he, while entirely untrained in art of combat, is far from harmless. In those first few minutes of Blue Ruin, we look at a man with a deep, passionate lust for vengeance. Saulnier, who penned the story and script as well, shows us that anyone can be driven to the breaking point. Anyone can be driven to kill. Even those we might least expect are capable of it.
This point is driven further after our protagonist, Dwight (Macon Blair), steps out of the shower after having shaved away his unruly mane and trimmed his mangled hair. He steps out, revealing possibly the biggest nerd-looking dude you could possibly imagine. The last person you might surmise would have it in him to kill. All the same, I do not believe it was Saulnier’s first priority to create a film that demonstrated anything about the horrors, or simple facts as one might put it, of human nature. It was to give his audience a thrill ride as best he could. And he did not disappoint.
Once the first episode of intensity had begun to subside, I doubted that the pace could be maintained. I predicted that I had just seen the hook, a moment of brilliance right at the beginning to grab my attention. I will just say that I made a great many wildly misguided presumptions about this film. As the consequences of Dwight’s actions began to reveal themselves, and as the inevitable subsequent steps that he needed to take became apparent, the film only grew in its energy and excitement.
As Teddy, briefly and brilliantly portrayed by Kevin Kolack, aimed Dwight’s own weapon right at him, and knowing the film was in its final act, I thought…could this be it? Is Dwight going to finally succumb to the wrath of this family of killers? BANG! The best part of the whole film takes place as Dwight is saved by his high school chum, Ben (Devin Ratray). This is the best part of film not just because our protagonist was saved when I was convinced he might suffer death — this is the best part of the film because it is done in a manner that makes total sense and reveals the plan that the two characters had. While I sat on my couch like a moron thinking that Dwight was in the middle of nowhere, preparing to face this psychopath on his own, Ben, the well-versed marksman (and killer, himself) had his scopes on the situation the whole time. Ben would never allow his old companion to face such a formidable opponent all on his own. It’s a plan well-executed by Dwight and Ben, but also by Saulnier and his crew.
The Netflix category “Hidden Gems” has once more done right by me. Blue Ruin is most certainly everything I look for in an independent action film. Strong performances, the type of solid writing that rarely accompanies big-budget summer blockbusters, and all the while not boring me to death with strung out back-stories or character development in the place of excitement. This film did what most films have to make time for to get to the good stuff, during the good stuff. That can be attributed to all the parts coming together (writing, acting, directing). I highly recommend Blue Ruin, and as it’s streaming on Netflix you have no excuse.