The Adelaide Film Festival has kicked into gear with Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin. This impressive US thriller, first screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, is a fine example of how attention to detail, interesting characters and perfect pacing can put a spin on a traditional tale and turn it into something much greater.
Blue Ruin is the story of drifter Dwight (Macon Blair) and his tragic quest for vengeance. After learning that the man accused of murdering his parents is released from prison, Dwight returns to his hometown to kill him. His attempt at assassination fails spectacularly and the drama and violence between two rival families begins to escalate.
A lot of people would call Blue Ruin a trashy film and, to some extent at least, I agree. It was filmed with a relatively small budget, funded in part via a Kickstarter campaign, and contains some less-than-highbrow scenes. A focus on making the audience squirm and jump, however, belies a cleverness that shines through in parts. The social commentary on Western class structures, poverty and gun ownership adds a layer of depth to the film, and some fine cinematography give the film a distinct tone.
The character of Dwight is by far the most interesting part of the film. A meek, sad-eyed and physically unfit specimen, Dwight is hardly action-thriller material. He is a damaged man, blinding by rage at his parents demise. Blair was the perfect choice to play Dwight, bringing a well-developed skill to the table. The emotions portrayed by the actor, his sadness, guilt and pain, all seem quite convincing considering Dwight’s general character. You can’t help feeling immensely sorry for such a man as you see him, bearded and dirty, crying at the wheel of a rusting 1990 Pontiac. The other key actors, including Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves and David W. Thompson, were great but were, of course, overshadowed by Blair. I can’t say much for the two Cleland girls (Stacy Rock, and Eve Plumb), as their portrayal of the scabby redneck baddies was so over the top it was almost cringe worthy.
Blue Ruin has its fair share of blood splatter, as you’d expect (and probably hope) from this breed of movie. From the brutal stabbing, which lands Dwight in his predicament, to the makeshift surgery he performs on himself, the film never ceases to paint injuries in the most horrific way possible. Contrasting the blood, teeth and hair with the smoky coloured landscapes of North-East USA achieves a sort-of balance that makes the movie just feel… right.
Blue Ruin is a good-looking movie, with colours abundant and some cool close-up shots that really draw your attention. The character designs, costuming and overall image, were also unique and interesting.
Terms like ‘trashy’ can be overlooked or ignored if you so choose, but sometimes it’s best to just embrace it and enjoy the film for what it is. Blue Ruin is a movie that exceeds expectations, and blasts them apart.
Blue Ruin is screening 10 & 16 October 2013 at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas for the Adelaide Film Festival.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Rating out of 10: 8