Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Screenplay: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidné Anderson
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 2/6/14
Opens: April 25, 2014
Don’t look for much of the color blue in this gothic melodrama: the term “blue ruin” means “desolation,” or “utter despondency.” Such is the manner of the movie’s principal character, Dwight (Macon Blair), who is a wreck from the first time we see him until the story’s logical conclusion. In one scene he tells his sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves), that he’s not used to talking, and we in the audience believe him. He mumbles, he’s phlegmatic, he’s mysterious and self-destructive. At the same time he is bent on revenge and believes that he will be protecting his sister if only he can kill the fellow who liquidated his parents seemingly for having an affair with the murderer’s wife.
The camera almost never leaves the Dwight’s face, accentuating every wide-eyed stare, capturing his every emotion–not too difficult since his feelings are reflected by anything from a poker face to a poker face with big, scared eyes. We see everything from Dwight’s point of view and, given that, we cannot necessarily root for him to get back at the killer because any execution-style murder will lead inevitably to the targeting of his sister and her two young daughters.
While this film, which was picked up by the Cannes Film Festival, looks fairly original, at base it’s predictable. What’s more, the suspense, such as there is, is manifested principally from a good soundtrack. But Dwight is non-talkative and non-emotional to the point of audience exasperation, the scenes are shot almost completely in the dark, and Dwight’s plot to exact an eye for an eye is burdened with some dumb errors which look as though they will inevitably lead to his own demise and perhaps the death of his estranged family. The most discomforting scenes find Dwight pulling an arrow from his leg in excruciating pain and inflicting a mortal blow on one gentleman by slashing his neck from ear to ear.
Dwight starts out as from a full-bearded dumpster diver who breaks into homes to take baths, sleeps in his car, and who one day is warned by a police officer and friend (Sidné Anderson) that Will Cleland (Brent Werzner), the confessed killer of Dwight’s parents, has just been released from prison. Little does she realize that she has set a revenge drama into motion as Dwight shaves his beard, cuts his hair, and takes off in his decrepit blue Pontiac for his hometown in the sticks of Virginia. If we did not know that Virginia is a gun-friendly place, we are convinced of this in noting the battery of firearms in the home of Dwight’s best friend, Devin Ratray (Ben Gaffney), who trains Dwight in the use of several rifles to see what is most comfortable to him.
As Will Cleland’s redneck family goes after Dwight, the latter virtually guarantees their success by amateurish moves, among which is his refusal simply to shoot first and ask questions later. As they say, you’ve got to watch out for the quiet ones, yet Dwight is so inept, his conversations so flabby, that an audience cannot be blamed for wanting him out of the way.
Rated R. 90 minutes. © 2014 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C
Acting – B-
Technical – C+
Overall – C+