Sometimes not having a movie to watch is a good thing. By that, I mean I’ve got a perpetual stack of “to be reviewed” titles, but sometimes if they’re not ones that are readily recognizable to me they, well, kind of get put to the bottom of said pile. But after picking up several Blu-ray boxes and reading the plot synopsis, I finally made my way to Blue Ruin. After being somewhat intrigued by what I read, I checked out Rotten Tomatoes and saw that it had a 96% “fresh” rating. Ok, well that was enough for me, so in the disc went. Now before I delve into the plot (that’s the next paragraph), I will say that movies about revenge are hit and miss. I was reminded of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, a modern classic, as well as a recent movie I’d seen with Christian Bale called Out of the Furnaceor even the recent Prisoners. Both preach the same theme, but do it in different ways. So too does Blue Ruin, but it’s so like – yet unlike – any film I’ve seen in a while, it’s one that stays with you. And in a sea of films that struggle to differentiate themselves from one another, that’s a very good thing.
We meet Dwight (Macon Blair), a seemingly innocuous individual who bathes in vacant houses, sleeps in a rusted out Pontiac Bonneville (the “blue ruin” in the film’s title) and chooses to eat his meals from trash dumpsters. He’s quiet, anti-social and educated and he seems fine with it all. However when he’s informed that Wade Cleland, the would-be murderer of Dwight’s parents, has been let out of prison, he sheds the quiet demeanor and is literally out for revenge. He accomplishes his goal, but after leaving loads of incriminating evidence at the crime scene, flees to his estranged sister’s (Eve Plumb, “Jan Brady” of The Brady Bunch) house. After getting them to safety, he wonders why the story isn’t on the news, but quickly realizes that the Cleland klan, like Dwight himself, want to settle this under the radar. Dwight’s suspicions are confirmed when he’s attacked at the house, leading to a cat and mouse game where the outcome isn’t good for anyone.
There are a few twists and turns in the film, but to list them in the plot would be to ruin the film and, simply put, I don’t want to do that. I will say that Blue Ruin epitomizes the new independent film movement and it’s no coincidence that the film reeks of Tarantino-ish violence. Yes, people are stabbed in the head, faces are blown off and more; so if you’re weak of heart and can’t handle glorified movie violence, this might not be the film for you. The strength of the film lies in its understated tone and pace. There’s a singular mission to accomplish here and the movie sets us on a course and doesn’t veer from it. I’d read in another review where there’s no John Woo-ish styled slow-motion shootout scenes, rather things happen quick and fast – just like real life. The film, largely void of recognizable stars, doesn’t need any “A” list faces to carry it. Having won just about every major film festival, Blue Ruin is available to the masses on Blu-ray and it’s most certainly recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
Shot on a shoestring budget, Blue Ruin once again is the embodiment of what an independent film should be and look like. Having seen big budget films look poor and smaller scale movies look amazing on Blu-ray, I found the film to appear better than expected on screen. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image has a few issues, but none that really detract from the movie. The entire film seems to be a bit on the darker side, but given the nature and tone of the movie, it’s acceptable. Detail is spot on, we can see every spurt of blood in quite a few scenes. Black levels are a bit dicey, but nothing to worry about – I only noticed banding in one or two scenes. Overall it’s a very nice and acceptable transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few key moments as well. The highlight of the film is a short scene that takes place in a nightclub and it immerses the viewer in that scene. The LFE take control, the surrounds are active and we feel like we’re there with Dwight. Vocals are strong, but I found myself kind of straining in a few scenes to clearly make out what was being said. Either my herding is starting to wane or the actors were mumbling a bit. I’ll go with the latter. By and large, this is a front-heavy mix with a few key moments that really stand out. It won’t bring the house down, but then again – it’s not supposed to.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Given the film’s critical praise and overall warm reception, I’d have liked to see a bit more on the supplemental side, but with what’s included, I really can’t complain.
Audio Commentary: The two driving forces in the film, Director and Writer Jeremy Saulmier and lead actor Macon Blair give a very straight-forward commentary track with loads of information about the shoot, music and everything in between. It’s a perfect compliment to the film itself and is a must listen.
No Regrets: The Making of Blue Ruin – This is one of the better “Making Of…” featurettes I’ve seen as it isn’t just a lot of talking heads praising one another. It’s actually a look at the opening of the film and the cast tells of us of their history in independent film as well as the look of the style and theme of the film itself.
Deleted Scenes – Two in all, an extended opening sequence and one more with optional commentary by Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair.
Camera Test – Some raw footage with Macon Blair from a location shoot in the Maryland/Deleware area. This was used to set the tone for the film and give the movie it’s look.