Published Apr 24, 2014Blue Ruin is a near masterpiece for the first 30 minutes. Tension builds as viewers are given little explanation behind what's motivating its central hobo character, Dwight Evans, to forage for food and sleep in other people's tubs. Finally, it's revealed that Evans plans to kill the man who he believes murdered his parents.
This might sound like the plot of the 35th Liam Neeson revenge flick, but first you need to understand Evans. He looks nothing like his Red Sox right fielder namesake, but like a chubby nebbish version of WWE's Daniel Bryan. His saucer eyes scream, "I am not the type of man who can pull off a revenge murder."
Blue Ruin never plays this for overt humour, but there's a subtle comedic edge to the juxtaposition of Evans' dweeby determination and the bloody violence he ends up mired in. After he's shot with an arrow, vengeance-seeker convention would dictate that Evans grit his teeth, steel himself with a shot of whiskey and pull the damn thing out. Instead, he spends several scenes sawing off the arrow at the tip, buying supplies at a drug store and, after trying in vain to extract it, giving up and checking into a hospital.
After a violent altercation, Evans is hunted by the criminal family associated with his father's death, and must protect his sister and her family from the bloodthirsty Cleland clan. An old high school chum who happens to be a military sniper comes in like a slap-dash deus ex machina to save the day, and the plot becomes increasingly difficult to believe.
Director Jeremy Saulnier's film has been winning festival awards for infusing a revenge thriller with the aesthetic sensibility of early David Gordon Green. The cinematography is first-rate, with foggy shots of desolate Virginia roads far more striking than anything in last year's pretentious failure The Place Beyond The Pines.
Still, it's about 40% a great film, and the rest is mediocre, saving it from utter disappointment but raising it no higher. You might be better off staying home and watching the excellent trailer two or three times.