Director: Jeremy Saulnier.
Screenplay: Jeremy Saulnier.
Starring: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, Brent Werzner, David W. Thompson, Stacy Rock, Bonnie Johnson, Sidné Anderson.
“The keys are in the car… the keys are in the car… the keys are in the car“
Many didn’t pay attention when Jeremy Saulnier made his directorial debut in 2007 with the little seen comedy/horror film “Monster Party“. I know I didn’t. Now, though, it’s going to be hard to forget him as his sophomore effort “Blue Ruin” hits our screens (and our jugulars) with an impressively handled and assembled dark thriller that brings reminders of the arrival of the Coen brothers and all the taut and twisted glee of “Blood Simple“.
Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) is a man seemingly down on his luck but his self-imposed exile from society is the result of his parents being murdered at the hands of a powerful criminal family. When he discovers that the man convicted of his parents’ murders has been released from prison, he sets out to even the score with a revenge killing.
The first thing that strikes you about “Blue Ruin” is it’s odd choice of a leading actor. Relative unknown Macon Blair doesn’t have the chiseled looks or the physique of a man on a revenge mission. There’s a vulnerability to him and from the outset we are introduced to him as nothing more than a hobo who eats from garbage bins and hides under a mane of greasy hair and a long unkempt beard. Blair, however, doesn’t use his hirsuteness to mask his performance. Once he actually grooms himself, he reveals an even more vulnerable side with gentle eyes that speak volumes. He’s a flawed everyman that’s easy to relate to and identify with and Blair’s outstanding central performance is pitched to the perfect level. He lends an authenticity to an already believable and cleverly structured modern noir.
Writer/director/cinematographer Saulnier’s approach the material couldn’t be more deftly handled either. He doesn’t rely on an intrusive music score or shock tactics (as you’d maybe expect from a director who cut his teeth on a low-budget horror movie) but wisely pairs events down and allows the tension and suspense to build assuredly around natural characters, performances and events. He’s also not adverse to interspersing the proceedings with some welcome dark humour. This is an absolutely solid piece of work that commands your attention from the opening scene and even though it has a quiet, reflective tone to it, it sustains it’s vice-like grip and refuses to let go.
On this evidence, it looks like we’ve witnessed the arrival of two very special talents. Both Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair are definitely for the watching and they’ve delivered one of the best (and biggest) surprises of the year. This is raw, visceral and unbearably tense filmmaking.