NETFLIX HIDDEN GEM / BLUE RUIN
WRITTEN BY LEO HANNA
While trawling through the many humdrum titles dotted throughout the expansive landscape of Netflix, one would not be blamed for skimming past ‘Blue Ruin’. The cover, while not without its merits, is relatively uninteresting and has the charm of any number of quasi Coen thriller knock offs. The kind that tend to be released and disappear into the Netflix ranks to be later lost between a brutal Robert de Niro romantic comedy and a schlockfest starring (insert failed action star here). But, what Blue Ruin has that these other imposters don’t is genuinely heart-ripping suspense, startlingly real performances and a sense of bleakness that would make Nic Cave pat you on the shoulder and say ‘Chin up mate, it’ll be alright’
The films opening introduces us to the heavily bearded beach bum Dwight who sleeps in his broken down car and breaks into houses from time to time to clean himself up. When a police women stumbles across him and informs him that the murderer of his parents has been released, he sets out on an authentically realised though half formed plan for revenge that sees him scouring the dirty, dusty backroads of America and thoroughly deconstructs the romance and fantasy of the revenge thriller. This isn’t going to have Gerard Butler walking around in the nip and blowing up cars, nor does it depict Kevin Bacon shaving his head and waving a double barrel shotgun around. There is no hyper masculine superman hunting down his enemies with merciless efficiency in Blue Ruin. Dwight is a normal, soft spoken man of below average physical prowess and intelligence, and he acts as such. He constantly makes mistakes that any man would make, be it unsuccessfully trying to surgically remove an arrow from his leg in a similar vein to John Rambo or breaking his hand when trying to puncture a car tyre. His humanity and the fact that he is painfully ill equipped for this revenge mission is reiterated at every hurdle that comes his way.
Blue Ruin is a film that expertly breaks down the typically black and white nature of revenge on film and it extends this notion to its protagonist and its unique cast of characters. The majority of them are losers, plain and simple. Dwelling in rundown backwoods housing and often living with their mothers, each and every one showcases the darker aspects of small town America. The majority of run of the mill revenge films give the protagonist that familiar character who acts as a voice of reason,who exists to tell them that what they are doing is morally wrong. Blue Ruin however is not most revenge films and it’s characters are more likely to revel in the carnage than oppose it. Take Dwight’s distant though seemingly normal (which in the world of Blue Ruin is not saying much) who squirms with passionate delight once told of a killing or Dwight’s old school friend who takes a morbid fascination with his quest for revenge; no one is there to whisper in his left ear to let go! This is left up to Dwight’s whimpering psyche that wavers throughout and makes us doubt whether he can really go through completely with all his intended plans.
Jeremy Saulnier’s direction is superb, slowly ratcheting up the tension throughout. The close quarter nature home invasion scenes add a powerful sense of claustrophobia. The cinematography is replete with desolate yet beautiful landscapes, which only elevate the alienating, remote nature of the movie and its protagonists grim goal. A low budget thriller Blue Ruin may be but it’s directed with such assurance and boasts such narrative flair that it could trade punches with any successful mainstream thriller of recent years.