“Blue Ruin” is an example of a revenge thriller that adequately portrays horror that stems from blindly seeking vengeance. The world that “Blue Ruin” creates is a desolate place where people destroy others on a whim without any thought of consequence. It’s a grim setting but makes for an interesting tale. “Blue Ruin”’s overall story of the brutal journey of a man hunting for vengeance is a noble attempt, but a confusing plotline and slow pacing keep it from fully realizing its potential.
After Dwight (Macon Blair), a homeless man who spends his day scavenging for food, learns that his parents’ murderer has been released, he resolves to end his inner suffering by going after the killer. After assassinating him, Dwight flees to his sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) and learns that the killer’s family has set out to kill him. Now, Dwight must summon the courage to face the clan head on before they can hurt his family.
“Blue Ruin” is wonderful in terms of conveying a gritty tone while also portraying the realism of the graphic violence on the part of the protagonist. The film’s bleak aesthetic is stripped of bright colors and relishes its gloomy locales and dark rooms. The tension of the brutal carnage is nerve-wracking while the buildup is accompanied by a slow, pulsing score. Director Jeremy Saulnier makes every act of violence grizzly and realistic, and creates memorable characters well-suited to the dangerous society they live in.
In terms of acting, the most noticeable is Blair as the troubled Dwight. His transformation from a lonesome beach bum into a cold killer is jarring, as Dwight is a man blinded by his hunger for revenge, yet quietly self-aware of his downward spiral. Blair conveys both rage and fear effectively, making his role as a killer facing consequences all the more lifelike. He portrays an interesting man whose goal causes him to transform into a realistic killer.
Instead of committing the crimes out of sheer psychopathy, Dwight treats killing as a nasty, necessary evil. His fear, nausea and regret are gripping because they represent the more natural aftereffects of murder. The only other character that stands out is the darkly humorous Ben (Devin Ratray), who, despite having little screen time, serves as a helpful aide to Dwight’s rampage. He serves as decent comic relief, though his humor and general attitude about killing is considerably dark, which perfectly match the tone of the movie.
The pacing is tediously slow, however, and Saulnier sometimes focuses more on the grim mood rather than the story. This makes the story feel somewhat off, as moments between big revelations and the stunning climax are drawn out. While the general plot is easy to follow, some aspects like the background of the murderous family that wants to eliminate Dwight are not focused on. Minor characters, such as Dwight’s sister and members of the antagonistic family aren’t fully fleshed out and work more as plot devices that further Dwight’s story.
“Blue Ruin” ends up as a solid revenge film with a few story problems. It manages to convey a tense atmosphere dominated by blood-soaked violence. It works at exploring the struggle of a man haunted by former demons and his obsessive journey to destroy them. It provides wonderful commentary on vengeance and its outcomes, but unfortunately forgets to focus on decent pacing. While the film has great characters and atmosphere, a slow plot and unexplained sections of the story prevent it from becoming a masterpiece of the revenge genre.