Review: Blue Ruin

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Blue Ruin, on the surface, seems like a commonplace thing these days–the indie crime thriller. But in a twist that makes it more interesting, it features as its hero someone who is basically incompetent, and through almost nothing but luck gets to the final showdown. It also is porn for NRA members.

Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Blue Ruin, I think, refers to a car, a very banged-up Pontiac Bonneville (it even has bullet-holes). It is the home and seemingly only possession of a drifter named Dwight (Macon Blair), who takes baths by breaking into people’s houses and hasn’t used a comb in ages. He’s jolted into focus by learning that the man who killed his parents has been released from prison. So he heads to Virginia (from Delaware), finds him, and kills him.

This all happens in the first fifteen minutes, in what would ordinarily be the plot of a longer film. But what Blair does is piss of his victim’s family, and he realizes his normal sister may be endangered. He then takes steps, some smart, some stupid, to protect her. To arm himself, he calls on a high school friend, who has a cabinet full of guns.

Blue Ruin has a nice, gritty, rural America feel to it. The Cleland family, with whom Blair goes to war, live in a veritable armory, even having an Uzi under the La-Z-Boy. Though a contemporary film, it has a Hatfield vs. McCoy quality, where the law has no effect on the proceedings.

At times Saulnier gets tripped up, trying to keep straight information about the whereabouts of keys and other details. I noted on the IMDB comment page that one gentleman, correctly, points out the moves Blair makes that are completely dumb, but I think this is the point–most of us who are not used to being in shooting wars with hillbillies may not plan things out the right way, and with Dwight, who is emotionally damaged, it’s amazing he doesn’t get killed right off the bat. In fact, that he doesn’t may be the most implausible part of the movie.

I really liked the film, though the clear light of day doesn’t help it. I was amused that Blair’s friend is played by Devin Ratray, who played Buzz in Home Alone, and a cameo by Eve Plumb, erstwhile Jan Brady from a generation or two ago. She wields a mean Uzi.

My grade for Blue Ruin: B+.

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

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