Wednesday, November 13, 2013

AFI Fest 2013: Blue Ruin Review A Classier Version of Hobo with a Shotgun

Blue Ruin opens up on a down-on-his-luck bearded troll, not a hero, just a poor man. He gets word the man who killed his parents is getting out of prison, we have our story of revenge set. It would boil down to a short if not for the involvement family, both his and his enemies. Shot beautifully on a low budget, partially funded by Kickstarter. From the director of underground Halloween classic Murder Party, which had a sad protagonist as well, looks to be the director's "thing". Comes a classier version of Hobo with a Shotgun.


Rutger Hauer's toughness does not make it into the character of the homeless Dwight played by Macon Blair. Blair plays our homeless man with so much sadness coming off of him in almost all his actions. When he gets irate over a gun with a lock on it, you're pulled in with him in his frustration. Is what he doing right? Does he have the right? You don't get a monologue, well a short one at the end, but not speeches that edge on forever.

Following Dwight's normal routine, we see a poor man, barely making it by. He has no friends, eats out of the garbage and lives out of his car. What seems to be an arrest for some earlier unlawful action turns our attention to why Dwight might be so cut off. His parents were murdered and the man who did it is coming out of a jail early.

With no training, no funds and seemingly no one to care if he dies Dwight goes after the man who murdered his parents. This process like any other in the film takes it's time, showing every piece of planning by Dwight and how hard it is to get anything done with no money.

When the murder takes place it's not easy. It's painful, painful for Dwight and his attacker. Special effects get my highest approval in this scene. A knife in the head that makes The Walking Dead look cheap. Blood leaking out on a bathroom floor of a bar. They carnage looks real, is not over the top, but visceral. An award for special effects with a budget so low should be given to this film. When a face leaves a head later on via a gun, it had the entire audience at the AFI screening I saw it with cringing out loud.

Dwight's actions have caught up with him, he's put his estranged family in danger, his sister and nieces. The Cleland's want revenge, the family of the man he murdered. This boils down to a fight between him and Cleland kin. It costs him dearly, putting what's left of his family in danger, physical damage to himself and arrow to the leg.

Dwight's attempt to rip out the arrow are cringe-worthy. He has no training, this is not that kind of an revenge movie, he can't do it. Battles are few an in-between, when you're in them the results are brutal.

Barely talking throughout the film, even when he needs the help of an old friend your impression of Dwight is formed by his slow concentrated actions. The years of being alone as a hobo have built up in him. They've caused him to suffer to lack social grace. Getting revenge does not undo this. A man of little words dialogue does not waste expositions.

A slow painful revenge, the movie focuses on one man's broken down life, with long shots pausing on scenes taking in all the circumstances and questioning how smart any of Dwight's actions have been. A revenge film still with the oddball joke thrown in or the memorable scene that will haunt you as being so bloody how could you forget. Director Jeremy Saulnier takes a big step from a horror comedy into a deeper revenge film.