on 1 August 2014
With so many huge blockbuster movies already being released in preparation for summer, we often forget about some of the more tense and enthralling stories that are being released on a smaller scale. In this new age where technology is everywhere we turn and movies are at our disposal at all times, most companies have wised up and begun releasing films through platforms like Itunes, Vudu, and Video On Demand. One of the most recent flicks that caught my eye, already picking up steam at this year's Cannes Film Festival, is the riveting new revenge-thriller `Blue Ruin'.
Starring newcomer Macon Blair, it follows a mysterious beach bum who's quiet life is quickly turned upside down by dreadful news. Setting off for his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance, we see his emotional transformation as he winds up in a ruthless fight to protect his estranged family.
Trust me, as vague as that plot description was, it's the way you should enter the film. With surprises and shocking moments at every corner, you will certainly be glad that it wasn't spoiled. Spellbinding from beginning to end, `Ruin' is unlike any other film you will see all year, and it may be the best. Blair delivers an astounding performance, inhabiting the character at all times, and never letting up for a second.
Do yourself a favor and check this film out, you won't regret it.
on 22 May 2014
In a stunning, practically wordless, opening thirty minutes, we watch Dwight (Macon Blair) living out of his car, scrabbling through bins and washing in strangers' bathrooms. Like Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas, here's a perfect example of how to engage the audience's attention from the word go; we needn't be slapped round the chops, just intrigued. Writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier uses the visual medium to encourage us to ask challenging questions: Who is this wretched guy and what happened to him? Who is he watching as they're released from prison? And why is he buying a gun?
The power of the film, particularly its early scenes, lies in knowing nothing. So I won't run through the plot, except to say this is a dark, violent, black-comic revenge thriller, set in an overcast Virginia, whose comparisons to the work of the Coen brothers - particularly Blood Simple and Fargo - are entirely justified. There's also much in common with No Country for Old Men, in terms of Saulnier's attention to detail maximising the tension during some extended, dialogue-free setpieces.
And this is a film all about tension - not just in the scenes where Dwight is hunting his prey, but also in his character: he exists, almost zombified, in the borderland between sanity and insanity. Resourceful, ambivalent, and often decent (after a shootout at his sister's house he returns the next day to cover a broken window), Dwight is no dribbling mad monster. That would be too easy a caricature. Instead, we're watching the creation of a killer, from impossible grief to automation. The "blue ruin" of the title ostensibly refers to Dwight's rusty blue Pontiac, although it could also refer to the corrosive nature of his unkempt depressive state.
Macon Blair has the schlubby appeal of Paul Giamatti, and a similar ability to engage our attention through the subtlety of his performance. When so little is said aloud, it's all about the eyes. He does share a couple of excellent dialogue scenes, too - the best being a roadside diner conversation with his sister, played by Amy Hargreaves, which is a masterclass in acting shared pain.
Blue Ruin doesn't quite carry the brilliance of its opening act through to the end. Rather than descending into some memorable unusual darkness, Saulnier ascends to melodrama and bellowing. It works on a narrative level, but tonally and stylistically it seems like a waste, at the final stretch, to dispense with the genuinely unexpected turns of everything that led up to it. But perhaps we've simply been spoiled - this is expert filmmaking, which can take its place alongside other recent Southern nightmares such as Killer Joe and The Paperboy.
This is a revenge driven movie.
'Dwight Evans'(Macon Blair) is a drifter scraping a living anyway he can, his home, a
'seen-better-days car, he'd left his family behind some while back.
When seeing that the man who he believed killed his parents was about to be released from
jail, he heads back to Virginia where he had spent his childhood, he has no real plan, but
his intention is revenge upon 'Wade Cleland' which after a brief struggle he achieves.
In truth, 'Dwight' is an amateur when it comes to being an Assassin, he's not thought beyond
that moment of revenge, 'Wade' has a family which includes brothers 'Teddy' and 'Carl' not
to mention other family members, all equally determined to avenge 'Wades' death.
'Dwight' has become the hunted, his estranged family also in danger, after an encounter with
the 'Cleland's' he realizes that he needs help.
'Dwight' seeks out an old school-friend for help, 'Ben' proves to be the friend he needed.
'Dwight's' only plan of course is to get the 'Cleland's' before they get him or, and his family.
There certainly are one or two sequences that'l make you cringe some.
It's an engaging film that should hold your attention throughout.
Good Picture and Sound Quality.
* Behind the scenes featurette.
* Deleted Scenes
* Camera Test Film
"Blue ruin" is a small budget indie revenge thriller from the USA, written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. It tells the tale of "Dwight" who kills the man who was convicted of killing his parents, on the day of his release, and the aftermath. It has proper actors, high production values and a very good screenplay. It works.
We first meet "Dwight" (Macon Blair) enjoying a nice bath in someone's home that he's just broken into - before making a hasty exit on their return. It transpires that Dwight actually lives in his broken down, rusty (blue) car close to the beach, as a hobo. One morning, a police officer informs him that the killer of his parents, Carl Cleland, is be released from prison. Dwight immediately sets off and successfully murders Cleland on the same day he is released.
In most films that might be the whole plot, but here the bloody murder in a toilet of some seedy club, is just the first act. Only a few lines of dialogue have been spoken by this point, but it was gripping.
I won't give the whole plot away, but it is genuinely tense and there is a low-key realism to everything that makes it feel authentic. For example, Dwight's difficulty in getting his hands on a gun with no money and, finally stealing one from a car, finds it has a trigger lock on it! I have never seen that in a film before.
Blair does a great job in the central role of Dwight. No avenging angel with expert firearms skills and a witty quip, Dwight himself is an odd mixture of reticence, awkwardness and action. Seemingly both overtaken by events and yet somehow believably able to take control of the situation, as it escalates when Cleland's family seek revenge. His motivations; initially blind revenge and then protection of his sister, always seemed credible to me.
I'm not sure what "Blue ruin" means. It may simply be the car that Dwight has. Alternatively, "blue ruin" is a term used to denote a particular kind of absolute desolation. That feels a more apt interpretation to me.
5 indie stars out of 5
This American Indie release is a cleverly-conceived revenge thriller, offering all that you might expect from the genre, but delivering so much more.
It opens with the hapless Dwight, living in a dilapidated car, foraging in bins for scraps. He is a loner, bearded and shabby, avoiding contact with the outside world. Something has happened to bring him down, and we soon find out what that was. His parents had been killed some years earlier, and their killer is about to be released from jail. This galvanises Dwight into action. He gets the car going, shaves off his beard and unkempt locks, and heads for home, the unnamed town of his past. He has transformed from the scruffy tramp into a normal-looking man. The type you might see working in your local electrical shop, or trying to sell you insurance. He is an everyman figure, and you cannot help but be on his side, as he begins a difficult journey.
This is where the film builds its strengths. This could well have starred a craggy Bruce Willis, or slick-looking Mel Gibson. He would have a story seen in flashback, and be square-jawed, well-honed, driving along familiar sets, on the streets of Los Angeles, or Chicago. Blue Ruin eschews these classic stereotypes, offering instead a cast of unfamiliar faces, (to me, anyway) in unknown locations, looking like real people, minus the buff bodied stars, artificially whitened teeth, and world-weary smarts that have become so ubiquitous, to be almost a requirement. In Dwight, we have a scared man, determined to exact his own style of revenge. He knows nothing about violence, has never handled a gun, and only his will drives him on.
There is no love interest. Why would there be? The man has been living rough since abandoning his life years before. But you can be sure that other film-makers would have crow-barred in a lover, maybe an old flame, perhaps a waitress in a roadside diner. Director and writer Jeremy Saulnier knew better than to introduce such cliches. The woman that Dwight goes to see is his sister. He is worried about her safety, and must convince her to leave home. The criminal family responsible for his parents' death is on to him, and hers is the only address they have. He looks up an old college friend, someone he hasn't seen for so long, he needs a yearbook to remind himself. In some films, this role might be played by a co-star, or well-known tough guy. In Blue Ruin, he is an overweight loner, and his interest in weapons is why Dwight seeks him out. He teaches the hopeless friend how to use guns, and supplies him with what he needs too. But he has a feeling that Dwight will not be up to the task, so follows him, to help out if he needs it.
Much of the film concentrates on Dwight's preparations. He defends his sister's home against attack by the family he fears; and we see him trying to stay awake, jumping at sounds, the camera lingering on scenes, as he sits for hours in his prepared positions. He stalks his targets, going to their home when they are out, walking around, searching, discovering. The violence, when it happens, is shocking, and more effective for the scarcity of its inclusion. Dwight doesn't immediately prevail. This isn't Bruce Willis, after all. He fails at first, and has to come back again, ever closer to his enemies, always in more danger himself. Despite the quiet moments, the film manages to convey the tension that is always present, as well as the claustrophobic atmosphere, even in open spaces, brought on by Dwight's lack of skill at what he is trying to achieve.
By the time he discovers that the events surrounding his parents' death were not exactly as he had assumed, it is already too late. He must continue on his chosen path come what may, and we are certain that nothing will end well, for all concerned. By staying small, and avoiding big names, routine car chases, pointless love scenes, explosions, and decisive shoot-outs, Saulnier has crafted a small gem from what could have been a run of the mill, seen-it-all-before film; placing the thoughtful viewer into a situation that they could imagine themselves in, and showing just how difficult it can be to carry out your intentions. I loved it, and recommend it unreservedly.
And in case you were wondering about the title. It is the old car that Dwight was living in. It was a ruin,
on 12 August 2014
Dwight's (Macon Blair) reclusive. His hair is wild, his beard is long, he looks as cool as a 60s hippy. He's running away from the past and living it rough, eating out of garbage bins, sleeping in a rusty-old car, bathing in the homes of people who are absent, stealing to exist. When a kindly policewoman (Sidné Anderson) advises him that a double-murderer is being let out of prison early, Dwight is clearly disturbed. So disturbed he cuts of all his hair, shaves off his beard, changes his clothes, and looks like a dork. He heads back to where his family live but on the way takes ill-conceived revenge against the killer, starting up a whole lot more trouble in the process.
Blue Ruin (2013) is very different to any other revenge movie I ever recall seeing. Someone compared it to No Country for Old Men (2007) but it's hardly that, not by any stretch of the imagination. All the same, many of the scenes are violent, gruesome, and grisly. Macon Blair plays the role of hapless Dwight (who seems to have great powers of recuperation) to perfection as he bungles his way along on his mission impossible but gets by with a little help from a friend--super cool Ben (Devin Ratray). Another title for the movie could be 'Mr Bean Takes Revenge' as I could not help but laugh at some of the events and the dark humour must certainly have been intentional in this unusual revenge thriller with a most unusual avenger. In fact, it's one of the best movies I have seen for quite a long time.
Another thing that is different about this movie is that it is low on detail from the start but feeds the information along the way. We do get to know who is who and what had happened, eventually.
VJ - Movies and Books World
on 23 February 2016
A crime thriller which differs from the mainstream in the conception within how it is made, but which also encompasses the story.
The story is bound up in the rather different presentation of the film, both enabling a thought provoking, extremely engaging film.
The left of centre approach makes for a much more engaging, tension inducing, thriller than most I can ever remember.
In fact it manages to be utterly terrifying (at least first time around) without doing much, I suppose by what it doesn't do.
So here are two fresh elements in the crime thriller away from the formulaic:
It is thoughtful and provokes thought. (It is one to be watched numerous times.)
Yet, at the same time this approach makes for a much more thrilling thriller.
(It actually reminds of watching the first Halloween film, American Werewolf in London and The Fog, originals, when I was about 6 years old. I was really frightened, and I don't really know why. Perhaps because the film just touches manic psychopathy crime suggestions as a starting point for the terror which may develop, and may be expected to - if you know the suggestions.
For example, it can summon up the world of "Animal Kingdom" in just a few seconds at some point as just the first, barest suggestion of what might follow - or might not at all. The great success is in really leaping off the band wagon in formula terms, so the audience's terror is compounded by not having a clue what will happen. The film is a different, unknown animal.
Silence can be a terrifying technique in the crime thriller indeed.
The film is beautiful - it is so well and naturally shot that to use a term such as 'immaculately shot' would be a mistake and would lose the amazing, real, and very human impression given by this fine piece of craft.
Despite the marvels of the thrilling element of a crime thriller, what really makes the film is that it, for a change, pulls you to think.
I believe it is saying, there is no hurry, also.
Wow - Blue Ruin is a true masterpiece. (I would nearly never use that word!)
Another great film it reminds me of is The Pledge (2001), another pretty rare masterpiece, I think.
on 21 February 2015
One of the strongest achievements in recent years in independent cinema is "Blue Ruin". It's brilliantly written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier who just a few years ago was making his own amateur monster movies with his friends, some of whom were involved in this inspired revenge thriller that is the antithesis of the usual commercial revenge thriller.
Shot on a less-than-shoestring budget, it stars Macon Blair (best friend of Saulnier since childhood) as Dwight, an apparent homeless drifter housing a grudge against a convict about to be released from prison whom he feels had murdered his parents. Dwight is obviously unaccustomed to violence (he's never fired a gun) and, as in the best of the Noir classics, makes one bad decision that plunges him way over his head into a harrowing murder plot that'll keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
What makes this film so unique is how its suspense comes from slow, quiet inexorable tension punctuated with a few acts of violence that seem authentic, bearing none of the sensationalism or tired clichés one gets in garbage like "Taken" and its tiresome ilk. The triumph of "Blue Ruin" is even greater when one realizes that its director used his own family house and his family car making it, and managed such a height of verisimilitude by using cinema in its purest form. Here an 'amateur' outdoes the Hollywood pros in making a superb virtually perfect thriller that won't easily be forgotten.
on 14 February 2015
Isn’t it inspiring to see two young hopefuls manage to get their boyhood dreams realised into an acclaimed and award-winning film, against seemingly insurmountable odds? ‘Blue Ruin’ also is persuasive proof that Kickstarter is beginning to exert a significant impact on the diversity and therefore the quality of cinema in the digital age. Restraints of a meagre budget almost always seem to bring the best out of filmmakers, primarily because the limited resources compel them to try something different. Secondly, the artists get the necessary freedom to achieve their vision, without studio moguls and financiers breathing down their necks, usually spoiling the soup.
The adjective ‘atmospheric’ does not go far enough to describe the visual richness of this movie. It is said that a single, well composed frame can tell a lot more than a hundred worlds in dialogue, for cinema at its best is a visual medium. What sets ‘Blue Ruin’ apart from the many, similar crime thrillers is its refreshing narrative style, that creates palpable suspense through imagery rather than dialogue. There are notable occasions where conversations fade out mid-sentence, to heighten the emotional turmoil the protagonist is in. Here is a unique concept that the writer, cinematographer and director Jeremy Saulnier deploys and sustains throughout the movie. It is largely aided by his smooth and elegant photography, which only rarely uses handheld capture and is always beautifully composed. This vision comes to its own in the short film he made for the Kickstarter appeal, an excellent example of how a single, underpinning idea is the best starting point for a movie. Add the unadulterated, melancholic and hapless presence of Macon Blair in his début performance as Dwight, the film transforms to something much more than an excuse for violence, a distinctive human drama, with its heart in the right place. The supporting cast of largely unknown actors are also a joy to watch.
Those who compare this film to Hitchcock’s thrillers are forgetting one salient point: almost all his work were verbose in dialogue and are too irritating to watch now because of overacting, a flaw common in early cinema as a result of actors having to shout to get recorded well enough. I agree that the narrative style of ‘Blue Ruin’ has its roots in the classic thriller, but it is a fresh and contemporary take on the genre.
Having said all that, is ’Blue Ruin’ worth watching again? Perhaps for students of cinema, but not for me!
on 13 May 2014
Jeremy Saulnier’s edgy revenge thriller laudably avoids the usual Hollywood clichés and in Macon Blair’s loser Dwight presents a pleasingly realistic weak and cowardly anti-hero. The film opens with a bedraggled and seemingly homeless Dwight living out of a battered Pontiac – the ‘blue ruin’ of the title, on an abandoned car-lot, and scavenging through dumpsters for discarded scraps of food. This seemingly peaceful lifestyle is brutally interrupted when a police officer brings Dwight some devastating news, and the film immediately changes to a clumsy revenge thriller, as Dwight returns home to Virginia in order to confront demons from his past.
A lean and sparsely-plotted slice of potentially cult cinema, Blue Ruin follows the same grubby path as the likes of Andrew Dominik’s 2012 neo-noir effort Killing Them Softly, with its unashamedly weak protagonist and clumsy, yet violently unstable criminals. Blair’s performance is reminiscent of that of Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis; understated but essential to the successful telling of the story. Able support is provided by Devin Ratray (recognisable to the eagle-eyed as thuggish Buzz Mcallister from Home Alone no less!) as Dwight’s old school pal Ben Gaffney, who comes to his aid in spectacular fashion, whilst Amy Hargreaves play’s Dwight’s long-suffering sister Sam.
Made for a paltry $38,000, this is the kind of film that shows the industry is prepared to take risks, and its critical commercial success will hopefully encourage more of the same.