A homeless drifter sets out on a desperate quest for revenge.
I went in with no idea what to expect from Blue Ruin and came out sure I’d seen one of the best movies of the year.
American filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier’s second feature starts out in a way that does little to announce its intentions. A heavily bearded man (Macon Blair) is sleeping rough in his car. It’s quiet, and wordless and could be the stepping off point for almost any kind of movie.
And that fluidity remains throughout the 90 minute running time. Drama gives way to action and if the rhythm it finally settles on is that of a thriller it’s frequently interspersed with elements of the siege film and some truly sharp comedy.
It’s these touches of humour which help to define the film’s unique identity. Thanks to some strong writing from Saulnier and perfectly nuanced delivery by Blair, I genuinely couldn’t figure out for a while whether I was supposed to be laughing out loud. But once I surrendered to it, the flashes of comedy alongside the dark tone and intense narrative kept me riveted right to the last frame.
It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking, especially given that the budget was less than $400 grand, with $37k raised through Kickstarter in August 2012. While a couple of the earlier action moments lack punch, the best is saved for the latter half – including some crowd-pleasing practical and visual effects and way more gunplay than I was expecting.
It’s really a film that defies expectations at every turn – whether it’s the acting, script or technical craft – but still manages to retain a strange and beguiling tone that illustrates why indie filmmaking is such an exciting place to play.
Blue Ruin may be a smaller scale film but it absolutely deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. For all its indie heritage, it’s easily the best revenge thriller I’ve seen in cinemas for years and while it will probably find most of its audience via home media (you can watch it on demand in some regions here) it’s gorgeous, gritty and gripping enough to make it worth catching in a theatre if you can.