Blue Ruin’s cautionary tale is Death Wish meets the Hatfield-McCoys

Blue Ruin
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


Real life isn’t like the movies.

True love is not the inevitable outcome of a tempestuous first meeting and cars don’t blow up just because you put a few bullets in them. It’s this reality that is at the heart of Blue Ruin.

The breakout film of writer-director Jeremy Saulnier, Blue Ruin follows Dwight (Macon Blair), a doleful young man whose life went off the rails year before when his parents are brutally murdered.

Living out of an ancient junker, the beardy, disheveled Dwight is informed by a sympathetic local police officer that the man responsible for his parent’s death has been released from prison. Almost without word, Dwight sets out to find the newly paroled killer and take bloody vengeance. The question Blue Ruin dares to ask is: What then?

Blue Ruin is a vengeance thriller that denies all the tropes of the genre. For one thing, Dwight’s been living out of bins for however long; he can hardly afford a gun. Blair himself is a downbeat, earnest presence. As Dwight’s disappointed sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves) points out, he’s not crazy, just weak. He’s the anti Charles Bronson yet he finds himself caught up in a cycle of violence – eye for eye, tooth for tooth – that leaves more than one household lying empty.

In this, Blue Ruin plays out like a less complex, less stylized Blood Simple, though Saulnier’s vision is more humanistic and less cynical than the Coens’. The film takes its time with Dwight’s gradual transformation into a baby-faced assassin, from crawling around on the floor during a home invasion to performing some truly wince-worthy DIY first aid.

The film is also a look at a world where people, like Dwight’s burly former college buddy (Devin Ratray), mostly end up trapped where they began.

Despite all this, Blue Ruin may be grim but it never feels truly hopeless. It’s attitude is perhaps best expressed in the words of Franz Kafka, “There is an infinite amount of hope in the universe… but not for us.”

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs. Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape. Co-host of The Movie RobCast podcast (formerly Electric Shadows) and member of the Online Film Critics Society.

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