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Sundance 2014 review: Blue Ruin

by on January 19, 2014


Blue Ruin is a different kind of thriller, a revenge story  that forces the audience to come to grips with the fact that the protagonist they’re rooting for to get even with the people who killed his parents might be as responsible for the escalation in violence that happens throughout the film as the decades-0ld crime’s perpetrator. It’s a tense and rewarding ride seeing how director/screenwriter Jeremy Saulnier puts his story together.

The story begins with Dwight living as a vagabond, and we discover he’s still reeling from the murders of his parents when a police officer friend lets him know the murderer is set to be released from jail. Taking the news less than well, Dwight sets off to return to his childhood home and make the man pay for what he did to Dwight’s parents. A somewhat simple revenge plot, though, turns into an exasperating dive into amateurish vigilantism, with Dwight and the family of his parents’ murderer circling each other in increasingly tight circles that the audience can feel.

While the audience naturally sides with Dwight from the get-go, since he’s the first character we meet, his actions aren’t entirely noble. The unintended consequences of his plan drag his sister and her children into the feud, as well as an old friend who has to come to Dwight’s rescue in more ways than one.

The real strength of Blue Ruin is that it jumps right into the action and never lets up, even while being a low-key, relatively simple story told with unfamiliar faces and a low budget. The violence is realistically brutal–as are its effects on Dwight and those around him–and there are moments of dark humor that are all the more funny given the unrelenting tension for much of the film.

Saulnier deserves major kudos for constructing a fine genre piece, and lead actor Macon Blair as Dwight is one to watch.

Blue Ruin remaining screenings: 

Sunday, Jan. 19, 11:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City

Saturday, Jan. 25, 9 p.m., Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City

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