Blue Ruin is a taunt thriller that eschews car chases, explosions, and shootouts. How refreshing.
Macon Blair stars as Dwight, a drifter living in a rusted car on the Delaware coast. When he learns his parents' murderer is receiving an early parole, he returns to his small Virginia hometown to exact revenge.
Blue Ruin doesn't settle for revenge movie tropes. Dwight isn't confident and driven. He's desperate and scared. He exacts his revenge in a clumsy and brutal bit of violence that leaves him bloody and shaken. His escape proves equally sloppy, leaving him to await the inevitable retaliation.
Roger Ebert was fond of saying, "It's not what the movie is about, but how it is about it," and that's true of Blue Ruin. It's a simple story, but I loved its straightforward, character-driven, approach. We meet Dwight as he's easing into a warm bath inside a cozy single family home. Just as he gets comfortable, the owners arrive and Dwight flees. It's a terrific introduction that draws us into his story. As Dwight's retribution spirals out of control, we grow concerned for him, investing us in the finale.
Blair is perfect in the role. He never tells us how Dwight is feeling, but his eyes speak volumes. As Dwight watches his parents' killer leave prison, Blair's expression mirrors the bile and nausea churning in Dwight's stomach. Later, after Dwight has taken his revenge, Blair's darting gaze and vacant eyes communicate Dwight's shock. It's an award-worthy performance.
The film has its flaws: a bit of on-the-nose dialog and a suspect backstory, but these are minor quibbles. Blue Ruin is that rarest of thrillers, one that places its characters first.