Blue Ruin is a 2013 revenge thriller directed by Jeremy Saulnier, who wrote and directed the more recent Green Room. Blue Ruin was Saulnier’s second feature film after Murder Party (2007) and was potentially his last shot at creating a feature film for the big screen. In the lead role is Macon Blair, a long-time friend of Saulnier’s who has appeared in every one of his directorial efforts.
Blair plays Dwight Evans, a homeless vagrant who lives primarily in his car. The film introduces Blair’s character as he washes himself in a bathtub. Dwight reacts to the sound of approaching footsteps and keys and we, as the audience, are led to believe someone is breaking into his home. In fact, it’s Dwight who has broken into a family’s house. This opening scene pins down Dwight effectively, through simple visual means. His character is not inherently ‘good or innocent’ per se; to Dwight’s credit, the unfolding script reflects a much more realistic portrayal of an individual.
Dwight later finds out from a cop that the man behind his parents’ murder is about to be released from prison. Evans kills the murderer in retaliation. What follows is an intense cat-and-mouse hunt between Blair’s character and the murderer’s crazed family.
Blue Ruin is a truly fantastic mesh of a gritty thriller and dark drama. Saulnier was heavily influenced by the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men when writing the script for the film and it’s easy to see some of that masterpiece’s elements seep into Blue Ruin – the intense and suspenseful sequences, picturesque southern landscapes, a distinct colouring scheme, quiet dialogue, visceral violence and sudden bursts of loud gunshots and noises.
The relatively low success from Murder Party, coupled with rising bills and expenses in his personal life, meant Saulnier had one last chance in his mind before potentially calling it quits for good and focusing on his role as a cinematographer. He decided to write a simple revenge thriller (and what a revenge thriller it is) to pave the way to a more marketable audience. Blue Ruin achieved success with critics and audiences, thankfully giving Saulnier the opportunity to continue his love of writing and directing films. He then moved onto Green Room.
Blue Ruin is the definition of a great indie thriller. It takes certain elements depicted in past thrillers and adds its own unique style. Saulnier’s Blue Ruin proves that it doesn’t take millions and millions of dollars to make a superb and entertaining feature.