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Review: Blue Ruin – “An engrossing and unpredictable thriller”

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Insouciant, awkward and punctuated by violence; Blue Ruin is an engrossing and unpredictable thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, who not only writes and directs, but also serves as the film’s cinematographer.

Macon Blair stars as Dwight, a reluctant and awkward agent of vengeance. Since the murder of his parents, Dwight has lived a quiet hobo life out of a bullet-ridden corpse of a car on the beach. He’s a thief and a burglar – but only breaks into people’s homes for a bath and a bite to eat.

When news reaches him that his mother and father’s murderer has been released from prison though, he reactivates like a kind of bearded-Bourne. He secures transport and a weapon and heads off in search of revenge. The only drawback is that he’s actually a shy, soft-spoken geek, with no training.

It’s hard not to internally cheer for this nerdy Rambo, no matter how grim things get. Director Saulnier exacts just the right amount of humour and cringing from Dwight’s efforts to make his journey enjoyable, yet never too comfortable: whether he’s protecting his sister’s house from goons using just a pitchfork, or limping around B&Q, shopping for stuff to get an arrow out of his leg.

Macon Blair’s performance as Dwight is perrrrfect. Unsure but willing, and unskilled yet unflinching. But he also has some fantastic support and guidance in the surprising form of a goatee-d gun nut, Ben, played byDevin Ratray. That’s Buzz from Home Alone. I shit you not. (“The salt… turns the bodies… INTO MUMMIES!”) These two are great onscreen together and as much fun as their continuing team-up would have been, it would also have been too obvious, and Blue Ruin never quite heads where you think it will.

Dwight’s target for justice, and the rest of his biker scumbag family, are all suitably mean and nasty. They don’t take any prisoners, and they certainly don’t go easy on their weaker opponent. This attitude and the ultra-real, super-painful-looking violence are important, as it again stops the film from feeling like a comedy – helping preserve that wonderfully dark and gawky tone that sets it apart and keeps it feeling fresh.

Beautifully shot, and shot through with grim, teeth-gritting humour; Blue Ruin is a baggy and delightfully ramshackle tale of revenge and retribution, that’s a bit weird, but a lot good.

4-out-of-5

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