This review was originally published on January 21, 2014…
Tales of revenge are some of the oldest tales ever told, and some of the most compelling. I’m not sure why but I suspect it has something to do with a natural arc to the revenge story that somehow always feels compulsory, yet somehow comforting, which then allows you to invest yourself in the characters, usually the one seeking the revenge. And that in and of itself is odd because we’ve almost all been told from a very young age that revenge is never the answer; but come on, who hasn’t wanted to really get back at someone who has hurt them or done them wrong? Revenge feels good even though it’s bad, even though it can perpetuate a cycle that rarely ends well, if it ever ends at all. But we as humans crave it, push against it and still embrace it. We secretly love it, or at least the idea of it, as we mull over how to get someone back in the safe confines of our mind. Seeing a revenge film or reading a book about revenge lets us live vicariously through a fictional character and root him or her on to do what we would probably never do.
Dwight, (Blair) the lead character in Jeremy Saulnier’s excellent film “Blue Ruin,” isn’t looking for revenge or redemption as this story begins, and has instead chosen to opt out of society to live the life of a homeless man; dumpster diving, collecting cans and barely getting by as he sleeps in his battered old car. But soon bad news arrives, as a local police officer tells Dwight a man serving time for a double homicide has suddenly been acquitted, and the news literally jolts Dwight back into life. While there’s never any big speeches or shouting about what he’s about to do, Dwight simply goes into action as he hunts down this murderer to make sure justice is served.
And again, revenge stories are nothing new but how they’re told and the people involved are what makes them good or bad. “Blue Ruin” features a fairly air-tight script (which is virtually wordless) and an outstanding performance by Macon Blair as Dwight that really pulls this film together. His simple yet overbearing sadness is at once heartbreaking as well as something you want him to overcome. The role requires much of Blair as he’s in every scene, and here he does some seriously amazing acting using his posture, and especially his eyes. Blair says more when he isn’t saying anything at all and it’s an outstanding performance.
“Blue Ruin” is an awesome and bloody thriller that also takes a good, hard look at the toll revenge can have on individuals as well as those around them. Like a vicious ripple in a serene lake or a virus unleashed and gone wild, revenge never ends well. And here, we know it’s not going to end well but the ride keeps us engaged as we hope for a brighter day for Dwight.