Blu-ray Review: 'Blue Ruin'

By: Heather Seebach

As genre film fans, we know every trick and cliche of a revenge movie. They are almost always satisfying anyway, even when they color within the lines, but what makes Blue Ruin so special is the way it brilliantly - and subtly - subverts the genre. Add to that director Jeremy Saulnier's talent, an amazing cast, and a fantastic slow-burn revenge tale, and it's no surprise that this indie took home the esteemed FIPRESCI prize at Cannes Film Festival last year. 

Macon Blair stars as Dwight, an Eastern Shore derelict who commits a terrible act of vengeance and must deal with the consequences of his actions in order to protect his estranged family. The basic concept of the film began with the question: What would a regular person do in this situation? Imagine the gritty, bloody revenge films we know and love, but replace the lead bad-ass with a realistically mediocre man. That is our hero, Dwight. He is your average person dealing with his pain in the way he believes is right, even if he does so with frustrating ineptitude sometimes.

I have been a hardcore fan of Saulnier and Blair since I first saw their debut collaboration, Murder Party years ago. That black comedy has since become a staple of my Halloween celebrations, and a favorite film of mine and every friend I force to watch it. Green as they were back then, it was already obvious that Jeremy and Macon were ones to watch. Their sophomore effort is a very different animal, of course. There are touches of that dark humor here but they are appropriately restrained to maintain Blue Ruin's moody atmosphere. Most of the laughs come about from, as Saulnier describes it, "archetypal scenes being interrupted by reality." What would be a bad-ass entrance or showdown for men like Paul Kersey or Jack Carter becomes awkward and terrifying for Dwight. In doing this, the film beautifully walks the thin line between depressingly bleak and absurdly comical.

Saulnier has a strong background in cinematography and acted as his own DP. There are moments of Michael Mann-esque beauty (like a breathtaking Rehoboth Beach boardwalk sequence) but mostly the film is populated with lovely tracking shots in the 'burbs and boonies of Virginia. As for the script, Saulnier has found an ingenious way to tell the kind of revenge tale we genre film fans love but in a more realistic fashion where the characters are genuinely human and the violence never glorified. Dwight and the antagonistic Cleland Family are the broken products of their parents' mistakes, left behind to perpetuate a generational war.

Ruin is an independent film in the truest sense - Saulnier cast his best friend (a relative unknown) in the lead; the crew often doubled as actors; even Jeremy's car, kids, and childhood home play pivotal roles in the movie. This is seemingly a very personal film for the director, as he literally returns home while Dwight does the same. There is a lot of subtext about nostalgia and childhood, which is fitting for a story about the past and about family. There is a hell of a lot of beauty and emotion buried in this gritty little revenge story. You would be doing yourself a great injustice to skip this one - buy it immediately.


Blue Ruin is available on DVD and Blu-ray from RADiUS-TWC and Anchor Bay Entertainment starting Tuesday, July 22nd. You can also find the film On Demand. If you are a fan of this movie and/or Saulnier/Blair, I highly recommend picking up the Blu-ray release, which includes the doc, "No Regrets: The Making of Blue Ruin." In addition to on-set footage, bloopers, festival footage, storyboards, and audition tapes - all amazing content for any behind-the-scenes doc - the most exciting part for me was there are clips from Saulnier and Blair's early VHS movies! Megacop 2000

The interviews with cast and crew are also great, and surprisingly emotional. Saulnier and Blair recount their struggles to find work post-Murder Party (which BAFFLES me), returning to their day jobs until finally taking a chance on Blue Ruin, only to be shot down before finally breaking through. Their story is an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers. I was nearly brought to tears by their story, followed by genuine waterworks when Jeremy talks about his father's death - it's a beautiful moment but you'd better have tissues at the ready.

The commentary track with Saulnier and Blair is also a great listen for fans of this film. Their humorous and occasionally drunk walk-through of the movie is full of good anecdotes. These guys are so humble and don't even realize know what true talents they are. I had no idea that funding this film was such a struggle but I am thrilled for their much-deserved success now.

The Blu-ray also includes deleted scenes, which are mostly extended scenes plus a very cool sequence where Dwight goes through a spooky funhouse. It also has the camera test which the guys used to recruit investors, cast, and crew. It's a stunning 4-minute piece starring Blair and establishing the tone of the final film. It is set to the beautiful and bleak "I Hope You Die" by Maryland-born band, Wye Oak. It's all very Delmarva which hits home even further with this Baltimore native! This is definitely a must-watch for fans of the movie.

You can pick up a copy and support great indie filmmakers (and Viewer Discretion Advised) using this Amazon link below:

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