Descent into Red – Review of ‘Blue Ruin’

Blue Ruin

This is how it starts

Blue Ruin is a beautifully-shot noir thriller that evokes the mood and atmosphere of the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple and wistfulness of Terrence Malick’s ‘Badlands’. If you like your thrillers black, riven with realism and shot through with occasional humour – then this is for you.

The film opens with Dwight, a beach bum who we learn has retreated into monotonous vagrancy after the double murder of his parents. Collected by the local police for his own safety, this day is different. This is the day that his parent’s killer is being released and nothing is ever quite the same for Dwight from that moment on.

The score, direction, cinematography and acting throughout the movie is superb. Dwight’s teary gloom is tellingly etched on actor Macon Blair’s face as he moves from bearded drifter to clean-shaven assassin, nervously stumbling through a blood feud and all the unforeseen consequences it brings.

The violence when it comes is deep red, rooted in reality and mired in occasional squirm-inducing honesty. Nobody here has 99 lives or bats away bullets like flies.

Blue Ruin’s bloodline

Blue Ruin’s landscape, like Blood Simple, No Country For Old Men, Fargo and Badlands before it, is replete with drifters, sociopaths and chance encounters – all which credibly permits its characters to follow their own bloody paths. Blue Ruin is about damage. The kind of damage that lingers unseen in backwaters America until time comes calling in the shape of opportunity, only to spiral out of control later.

Two years from now you’ll remember this film. Not for the awards it’s won (or it’s going on to win) or the actors who originally acted in it but when you see the bigger, starrier-budgeted movie that treads similar ground only to fall on its face, mired in cliché. It’s a rare day that a thriller shares the same purposefulness of its central’s character and decides not to take the easy way out.

See it inside an actual cinema while you can.

Mark Esper
29th April 2014
(reproduced by permission)

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