BLUE RUIN is that rare film that fulfills all the genre expectations and yet still delivers arthouse quality of performance, script and cinematography. Starring Macon Blair as homeless man turned avenging killer Dwight Evans, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s BLUE RUIN keeps the tension running from the opening minutes (Dwight has like one line over the first twenty minutes) to the inevitable everything-goes-to-hell ending which involves a shootout with Jan Brady wielding a machine gun (actress Eve Plumb in a fantastic cameo). Along the way, Dwight bumbles his way through a series of revenge assassinations trying to right a 20-year-old wrong that left his parents shot-up in a car while he was still in high school. BLUE RUIN arrives with more festival credentials than most thrillers, having entertained audiences at Cannes, Toronto, and Sundance.
What makes BLUE RUIN so compelling is that Dwight is not some sort of Gran Turino Clint Eastwood ready to pounce or even a Falling Down Michael Douglas who draws on a lifetime of rage to carry out his onslaught. “Wanting revenge is very human,” says Saulnier, “but unlike typical film scenarios, Dwight isn’t a war veteran or any kind of tough expert — he’s a novice assassin. And a rather endearing one, I think.” His success is a testament to his drive, as his first kill is something he’s probably thought about for twenty years, and yet, given the opportunity, is utterly unprepared to carry it out. “By thrusting Dwight into a very typical revenge scenario,” explains Saulnier, “and then watching him completely screw it up, and letting the brutal, tragic and at times hilarious fall-out unfold naturally, we were able to explore new territory in the genre.” The events of the film easily play out after, with one botched situation leading to the next one logically through Dwight’s incompetence.
And yet throughout we are essentially rooting for the character to kill people. Saulnier certainly had a secret weapon in making this film, his friend of twenty-five years, Macon Blair, who fills Dwight with a quiet sorrow and depthless fear that he fights through ever minute on screen. The film marks the culmination of a 15-year mission on Saulnier’s part to cast Blair as the lead actor in one of his films. “He’s the most dedicated actor I know,” Saulnier says. “I designed the entire project around him and leaned heavily on his understated and emotional delivery as well as his indestructible nature — he smashed through glass, leapt from windows, drank blood and endured a fairly grueling shoot.”
The actor actually spent a year growing out his beard for the first act of the film. “Everybody has lost someone they care about,” Blair explains. “You can infuse the character with that. Everything Dwight does is based on this feeling of loss.” But coming from a place of such hurt and weakness is one thing, converting those feelings into something more lethal is what make’s Blair’s performance so impressive. “This is a guy who is totally out of his depth,” Blair says. “At the outset Dwight is scared, hesitant, regretful and devoid of toughness. I did not have to try hard to locate the emotional reality of that. Over the course of the film, he transforms into something else entirely.”
Along the way he finds a little help, emotional from his sister (featuring a strong turn from Homeland’s Amy Hargreaves), and firepower from his high school friend Ben (Devin Ratray who injects some much needed humor and joy about halfway through the film), but mostly Dwight’s journey is his alone. He has spent his life distancing himself from people and has only returned to accomplish this final task. He even says at one point “I’m not used to talking this much.” BLUE RUIN is one man’s journey into darkness to try to reclaim some peace in which he might rest. It is full of thrills and surprises along the way, beautifully shot, and carried by a solitary actor delivering the character of his life.
BLUE RUIN will be released to theatres and iTunes simultaneously on April 25th. On April 24th, the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane will have writer/director Jeremy Saulnier and actor Macon Blair in attendance at a 7:00 pm screening.