“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
When we meet Dwight, he’s already defeated. He has a beard and long hair, he’s homeless, he digs through trash behind a carnival for dinner, he sneaks in to people’s houses for baths when they’re out for the day, and he sleeps in his old shelled out car on the side of the beach. One night Dwight is picked up by the police, and informed that the man that ruined his life is being released from jail after a court acquitted him. And now Dwight has made a decision that will decide the rest of his life. Director Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” is one of the least glamorous revenge films ever made. It’s an ingenious and brilliant look at the actual repercussions of vengeance and how it can create a ripple of unintentional consequences and violence that eventually spirals out of control.
Years before, Dwight’s parents were murdered by a local business owner. Now he is released and allowed to roam free. Dwight decides to enact a somewhat flawed act of vengeance that has massive repercussions, and while it is definitely the catalyst for the film, it’s thankfully not drawn out or the centerpiece. It’s a very isolated act of violence that director Saulnier stages with sheer brutality, and then explores how Dwight responds to said act of violence. Director Jeremy Saulnier is brilliant to dissect not just how any act of retaliation has severe effects, but how revenge can be an endless cycle of anger and violence that has to eventually be cut off, one way or another. Dwight travels to visit his long lost sister and confesses he’d committed the murder, and suddenly realizes that a retaliation is not only inevitable, but may end up snuffing out the remaining family he has left in his life.
Surely revenge feels good as a quick rush of justification, but it’s a near endless circle of violence that can consume many innocent lives. “Blue Ruin” is consistently grim and brutally violent, but also garners a deeply rooted dark comedy that make the chain of events absolutely stunning. Dwight is a man doomed to fail from the beginning, but he’s committed to trying, and has to figure out how to end the repeated cycle of revenge, or else his plan may have been in vein. Star Macon Blair’s performance is absolutely flawless, as he portrays an average man whose plan starts out as raw vengeance transforms in to a scheme too elaborate for him to conceive, all the while trying to figure out the best way protect his sister, when he’s certain she’s in immediate danger. Blair keeps a perpetual gleam of horror in his eyes the moment the narrative is set in to motion, and though he’s relentless and clever, he survives merely by dumb luck and quick wits.
It’s a miracle Dwight manages to survive for such a long stretch, and Macon Blair is able to instill that sense of everyman persona that makes Dwight such an interesting and compelling protagonist. The characters lacks style, or charisma, and any sense of cruelty whenever he’s on-screen, which makes his act in the first thirty minutes so shocking. Even his sister can’t comprehend his ultimate act of violence, proclaiming “I’d forgive you if you were crazy. But you’re not. You’re weak.” Director Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” is one of the most masterful thrillers of the year. It’s a tightly wound, and brutally tense revenge thriller that also has a message to leave its audience, never once depicting revenge as anything other than a catastrophe.