One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure. Even a shotgun.
Dwight (Macon Blair) is a man who has spent the past couple of years of his life as a drifter, going from one place to another, living off of scraps and just trying his hardest to get by with the limited-resources and near-death car that he has. However, one day while sleeping near the beach, he hears news that his parent’s killer is out of jail and walking as a free man, something Dwight isn’t too happy to hear. So, with this newfound, somewhat life-changing news, Dwight decides to take it upon himself to find his alleged parent’s killer, and get a little revenge himself. Dwight actually succeeds in doing so, but he screws up the plan by telling somebody, leaving his car behind and putting the rest of his family in harm’s way of being hunted down and killed. Dwight knows this, so he decides to take matters into his own hands by getting his sister and her two kids out of the house, where he waits patiently for the moment in which the guy he killed’s family to come around and see if they can end things, once and for all.
Sounds simple, right? Well, that’s because, believe it or not, it totally is. However, in this case, simplicity works wonders.
See, with a thriller like this, what matters is that a viewer gets sucked in right from the very start. This not only gets the viewer’s interest locked and ready-to-go for the rest of the film’s proceedings, but also lets you know that you’re working with a movie that’s actually trying. Not just trying in the way that it wants you to feel tense and have an idea that you have no idea of what the hell is going to happen, but trying to bring you into this story, for all of its thrills, chills, spills and happenings, even if they aren’t as fully fleshed-out as they should be.
With Blue Ruin, getting sucked into everything was what happened right away. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue as to what to expect from this movie, what it was about or even what was going to happen – all I knew was that it was good and that I needed to see it. That was enough for me to decide that it was worth the watch, and I was not wrong; all because of the opening and how it grabbed me right from the bat.
“What exactly did it do?”, might you ask? Well, it was very quiet and eerie, but not in an obvious way. As soon as we see this Dwight guy (who I continued to confuse with Daniel Bryan), we notice that he’s a bit dazed. He doesn’t have a home, barely any money, uses his street smarts to survive, barely at all talks, and just lives each day by itself. However, there’s something about his character, as well as the performance that Macon Blair gives that makes him so compelling from the very start. He may be all bearded-up and look like a member of Duck Dynasty, but there’s something about the way in which his eyes look so desperate and sad that doesn’t really fit.
In other words, he has the appearance of an alligator-scalping redneck, but his eyes tell us something, or better yet, somebody else quite different lies deep underneath. That’s why once this story actually gets going and throws into it’s cruel, deep and dark world of violence, cruelty, and bloodshed, all in the name of “family values”, it’s hard to lose sight of what really keeps this movie interesting, and that’s Dwight himself.
I’ve never, ever seen Macon Blair before, but something tells me that I definitely should be in the near future, because the guy’s pretty damn great. He doesn’t say much, but then again, he doesn’t need to; all he does is use his eyes and the sad, tired, worn-down look on his face, and we basically get an idea of who this person was back in the day before this tragedy was bestowed upon him, and how it’s changed him to be the person he is today. Once he does shave all of that hair off of his face and head, not only does he look like my neighbor, the average, everyday Joe Schmo, but his performance takes on a whole new life. We see what he looks like and the type of person he is underneath all of that scraggly hair, but it doesn’t matter. He’s still the same person and because of that, we still care about him, his journey, and the ways he continuously tries to save his own, as well as his loved ones’ lives.
Which brings me back to the movie itself – the type of thriller that doesn’t re-invent the genre by any means, but does enough that it feels fresh and somewhat original. For anybody that’s ever read an Elmore Leonard novel (like yours truly), you’ll get a sense that writer/director Jeremy Saulnier may have totally been inspired by those cold-hearted, crime novels of yesteryear. However, where those books are usually a balancing-act between comedy, drama, and violence, this movie is just straight-up violence and drama, almost the whole way through. Less violence than say drama, but when guns are shot, blood and guts do shed, and it’s very graphic.
However, it’s never graphic. The violence, the drama, and even the handful of moments in which comedy rears its strange head (mostly because of Devin Ratray showing up as a gun-aficionado), all feel deliberately used and made to add up to something. A bigger idea about the world in which we live in, where people feel the need to make up for lost times by violence, murder, raping and pillaging? I’m not sure. In fact, if I did have to say that there was something a tad bit sour about this movie, it’s that it definitely doesn’t seem to build to much else except “revenge is cool, but sometimes not”, and is rather abrupt. But that said, the movie still thrilled me the whole way through, even when it threw every twist, turn, and wrench it could think of. Rarely does that happen in which I don’t expect that; but so rarely does it happen in which I actually embrace the unpredictability to everything.
Consensus: Simple, small, and reserved, yet, tense and unpredictable as well, Blue Ruin isn’t the type of thriller that will change the way we think of the genre those movies belong to, but it does, and it will prove that there are better, brighter futures ahead for all talents involved.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!