Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Blue Ruin (2013)

2014 has been a great year for movies in my opinion, and what's made it so great for me especially is independent films.  There's great independent films every year and as film fans we can always rely on them to give us an alternative to the often creatively constrained and low risk studio features.  Independent films are where many of us genre fans turn for no-holds barred experimental cinema.  However, sometimes independent movies are amazing because of their simplicity   Such is the case with Blue Ruin, which takes the common theme of revenge and executes it to a high standard, with the end results being one of, if not the best, movie of 2014.  A throwback thriller in the vein of the Coen Brothers, and like the movies of the aforementioned comparison, its an offbeat film where the protagonist is far from suited to the violent events he has entangled himself in.  It's a simple story of revenge, made engrossing with the constantly moving story progression, tangible tension throughout and a few touches of black comedy that will have you laughing at the most unexpected moments (if you're a sicko).

Blue Ruin is the second full-length independent between director Jeremy Saulnier and actor Macon Blair.  Their previous movie Murder Party (2007) is forgotten, but nonetheless hilarious splatter comedy, which won some awards at horror film festivals.  If you like a bloody good laugh then Murder Party is one that I'd recommend.  It doesn't take itself seriously at all, but it does show that Saulnier is a diverse talent.  Murder Party is intentionally silly, but genuinely funny.  Blue Ruin, not without its dark humor, is a more serious affair, and a different beast entirely.  Comparisons to the Coen brothers are rife, but warranted, and that should not take anything away from Saulnier's modern masterpiece.  It's an American gothic noir with impressive visuals, oddball characters, deadpan humor and mid-western setting, so naturally Blood Simple, Fargo and No Country For Old Men will spring to mind.  It wouldn't be out of place in a Coen Brothers filmography, but that's not to say it isn't 100% Saulnier's vision and his own unique stamp on cinema, because it very much is.  However, the Coens' have such a rich tapestry for characters and Dwight would fit in nicely with their family.

Blue Ruin immediately draws the viewer in with Dwight, our hero as such, looking shaggy, stealing bath water and living out of his car.  Nothing is known about him, but it's apparent that he has a story to tell and the viewer is sucked in.  It doesn't take long for the blood shed to begin thereafter.  Unlike many other revenge thrillers, this isn't an action packed kill frenzy.  Action takes a back seat to slow moving character portrayal and the unravelling of a story about a scared man, out of his depth, trying to right the wrongs done to his family.  He is by no means the bad ass action hero we're accustomed to, and that's what makes this film so incredible.  He's just an awkward, everyday guy who has no clue what he's doing.  This gives the movie a sense of realism missing in most revenge flicks and most regular guys watching this will probably think they'd go about a situation like this of their own the same way.  In summary, Dwight is no Machete.  He's not even Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence.  He may be the most unlikeliest assassin in cinema history since Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs.

In addition to the performance of Macon Blair, which is nothing short of exceptional, and the engaging story, the visuals on display make this movie impressive.  Set against a West Virginia backdrop, this adds to Dwight's isolation and overall tension throughout, which at times is so strong that it becomes almost a horror movie.  There's one scene in particular in the first half where Dwight is alone in his sisters house awaiting assailants to come for him.  It's very chilling and uncomfortable viewing.  There's a couple of scenes like that which I found very effective.  The violence is strong when it happens.  The film does not shy away from the bloodshed when it deems it necessary and fellow gore hounds will get a kick from the kills.  It really is such a complete piece.

Overall, I consider this a must see for any fans of thrillers.  It has everything a thriller should have.  2014 has been a great year for throwbacks to the Coen classics and Blue Ruin would make an excellent double feature with No Country, Fargo and Blood Simple, as well as Jim Mickle's Cold In July, which is another impressive homage to the thrillers of the 80's and one I plan on reviewing at a later date.  Blue Ruin is deserving of the plaudits being sent its way and I really urge you all to pick it up.


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