Blue Ruin Review

Posted: December 14, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

blue_ruinWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

One of the big cinematic stories of 2014 seems to be the dawn of the crowd sourced films, with semi noteworthy releases like Veronica Mars and Wish I Was Here, which were made with Kickstarter funds, receiving releases this year, as well as major filmmakers like Spike Lee turning to Kickstarter to receive funding. This has sparked a lot of debate regarding whether or not celebrities should ask for fan donations to support their subjects, but discussions of the actual films seem to be very sparse. Veronica Mars came and went with little fanfare, while Wish I Was Here was dismissed as being mediocre (at best). The real crowd source success story of the year is actually Blue Ruin, a modest little revenge film which quietly become one of the most well-reviewed films of the year.

Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) is an adult whose life has been in shambles since the murder of his parents as a teenager. He lives aimlessly as a homeless vagrant living in Delaware. However his life finds new purpose when he is informed that the man who has killed his parents is being released from prison on a plea bargain. Dwight sets out to take vengeance, but in doing so kicks off a violent chain of events.

Blue Ruin is the type of revenge film that is very much grounded in the real world. The main character is not an action seeking badass, but a sad individual who isn’t really cut out to seek vengeance. Early scenes show his failed efforts to steal a gun and the actual act of vengeance is not carried out very well. The villains are a bit more experienced with violence and weapons, but they too are kind of inept. It would be easy to play these characters and story as dark comedy, but director Jeremy Sauliner instead frames it as sad, messy, and very human. It’s a delicate balance that is well-maintained, and Sauliner does a good job never letting his film slip into a revenge fantasy. Despite this, I wouldn’t say Blue Ruin reinvents the wheel on revenge movies, in fact many of its themes and style are pretty clearly influenced by the Coens’ Blood Simple. While the movie is well-made, Blue Ruin is essentially a very straight-forward revenge film and it’s easy to predict exactly how it will play out from the beginning. There is one minor twist, and it’s examinations on the messiness of revenge do have power, but they’re things that have been done before.

This is only Sauliner’s second feature and he is working with limited resources, but his execution is very strong. He was a full-time cinematographer before becoming a director, and it shows here as the film has a pretty well-realized visual aesthetic. Even with a limited budget, Blue Ruin still looks very professional, which is especially good because there is little dialogue in the film, particularly in the first third, where most of the story is told through visuals. In addition to a confident hand, Sauliner is able to craft some strong and suspenseful set-pieces, particularly a very tense climax. These scenes aren’t full blown action scenes, but more reigned in moments of violence which are exhilarating in their own way. The cast is similarly amateur, but it never really feels like it. Macon Blair gives a very strong performance in the lead role. He captures a good balance of making Dwight a sympathetic person, but still not being a full on hero. Instead he comes off like an understandable, though still damaged and unfortunate individual. The rest of the supporting cast give strong turns too, and the low budgets leads to the extras looking like regular people, instead of actors. This helps ground the film.

To some extent, I do think Blue Ruin is a little overrated. No matter how you slice it, the film is still just a revenge film that doesn’t really do anything different with the formula. It’s a well-made and interesting revenge film, but it still ultimately feels like a smaller effort, and if this same film had been released by a studio, I doubt the reception would have been as positive. Still, it is a very well-crafted film that deserves kudos with what it was able to pull off with limited resources. If nothing else, I look forward to seeing what Jeremy Sauliner and Macon Blair do next.


  1. Bubbawheat says:

    It may not completely reinvent the revenge story, but as someone who hasn’t seen Blood Simple it covers quite a bit of fresh ground. Also, Saulnier’s next film is Green Room with more well known actors including Patrick Stewart and also Macon Blair again.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. Doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the revenge-thriller sub-genre, but didn’t need to because of how good it is at being simple. Effective, but still simple.

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