The revenge thriller is not a new genre by any means, but over time it seems filmmakers have gotten bored with simple plots, and the result is often bloated, convoluted messes full of extraneous characters and divergences into subplots that amount to nothing.
Blue Ruin succeeds specifically because it avoids that.
Coming in at a trim 90 minutes, Blue Ruin disposes of any unnecessary contrivances, and focuses solely on Dwight, a vagrant who discovers that the man convicted for murdering his parents has been released from prison. On his path of vengeance, he engenders the animosity of his target’s family, who then target Dwight’s own family.
In total, there are only a handful of major players: Dwight, his estranged sister, his friend Ben (played by Devin Ratray, best known as Buzz “I wouldn’t let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass” McCallister in Home Alone, but also featured in my favorite movie of last year, Nebraska), and the two or three angry hillbillies out to get the former. Cutting the fat out entirely allows the film more breathing room for Dwight’s personal journey, and by growing more attached, as a result, the ensuing carnage feels even more visceral.
Make no mistake, there is carnage. Saulnier’s previous writing/directing jaunt was the horror-comedy Murder Party (2007), and although it’s often in brief spurts (indeed!), the violence is as brutal as you would see in a horror film. It’s not dissimilar to Drive in that regard, but there are significantly less scenes of Dwight driving as 80’s beats thump. Almost none, in fact.
If you have any interest in the revenge genre, you owe it to yourself to Czech this movie out. Though somewhat bleak and inhospitable, it holds a certain affinity for family, whether it’s for the best or worst, which is unfortunately true to life.