Saturday, April 18, 2015

Film Review: Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's a film that had a lot of promise, but falls a little short."

When the murderer of his parents is released from prison, Dwight Evans, (Macon Blair) a homeless wanderer, seeks his vengeance...

Blue Ruin is a fairly simple revenge thriller. The film follows Dwight after he exacts his vengeance on his parents' murderer, Wade Cleland. Unfortunately, the Clelands don't report Dwight, and decide to take vengeance into their own hands, as well. (The cycle of violence theme is very blatant.) So, Dwight decides to protect himself and his family from the Clelands, which causes more violence. That's practically the entire plot. There are a few surprises here and there, but nothing shocking or really worth noting, actually. It leads to a strong climax and solid ending.

 Blue Ruin is a good film that could've been great. The first issue in Blue Ruin is the filler. This film takes the "arthouse" approach -- you watch Dwight shuffle about and do nothing of significance quite a few times because it looks good. These scenes don't tell us much about Dwight. In fact, we learn more about Dwight from some simple dialogue and some of his actions. For example, we learn Dwight is weak from his first murder and from his conversations with his sister. We don't learn much from watching Dwight eat from the trash, making coffee, drinking tea, drinking water, and so on. We know he's homeless from the first scene, we don't need the rest. So, in this case, these types of scenes solely serve to bloat the runtime. It's a drag because, for most of the story, the film refuses to use dialogue. It wants to show it through expression so badly, it ends up hindering the experience.

The other issues with Blue Ruin are the plot contrivances. The story is very convenient. Everyone has their car doors unlocked and their keys in their cars, so Dwight can always escape conveniently; he can even escape from hospitals without anyone batting an eye. Furthermore, these characters, including Dwight, aren't very bright. For example, in one scene, Dwight gets his hands on a shotgun, then leaves it; a few scenes later, he's searching for a gun again. Then, one of the worst for me, the characters that seem to talk forever before they're going to kill someone -- why do they always do this!? Oh, yeah, convenience...

Anyway, Blue Ruin isn't a bad film. I've been negative so far because I'm very disappointed. Blue Ruin, despite its flaws, is actually very well executed. It's a very grizzly tale of vengeance. There's quite a bit of suspense here, which usually leads up to a vicious murder. Trust me, the violence is impressive - for lack of a better term. The death scenes are raw and memorable. Dwight isn't the most likeable or brightest character, but he's very interesting and even a bit complex. It's interesting to watch him coward away, even when many of his actions are hard to understand. With all of that said, you can probably see why I'm disappointed.

The acting is also good. Macon Blair delivers a calm and complex performance. The supporting cast, which is thin, get the job done, too. The film is shot well. Considering this takes the arthouse approach, you'll see a lot of environmental shots and closeups without dialogue - it looks great, but it doesn't do much for me. Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier has a grizzly story to tell and he does it decently. Unfortunately, the constant filler makes the film feel like its dragging its feet and the plot contrivances make some plot points less exciting. Honestly, if you were to cut out the 10 or 15 minutes of nothing, you'd have a film of equal or greater quality.

Overall, Blue Ruin is a good film. The story it tells is dark and interesting. The climax and ending are great, too. Unfortunately, the film has a few notable plot contrivances and some filler, which causes some pacing issues, as well. It's a film that had a lot of promise, but falls a little short. With that said, I still recommend a cheap purchase or stream, especially if you're a fan of the genre.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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