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Blue Ruin (2013)
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/22/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/30/2014
Action movies have garnered a reputation for being brain-dead and art-free. It's reached the point where many people won't watch action films because those movies are "stupid". And while plenty of entries from the genre would fall into that category, as with anything, there are exceptions to the rule. The original RoboCop certainly had an art-house aesthetic,300 turned battle sequences into bloody-dances, and John Woo's films like Hard Boiled or The Killer showed that violence could be elegant. For better or for worse, these movies proved that action films aren't always brain-dead. But, what about the flip-side of that equation? What happens when an art film takes on the mannerisms of an action movie? The newly released Blue Ruin takes us down the path of this hybrid idea.
Blue Ruin introduces us to Dwight (Macon Blair), a homeless man who lives in a car near a beach. He spends his days scrounging for food at the nearby boardwalk. One day, he is visited by a police officer, who tells him that Wade Cleland is being released from prison. Upon learning of this, Dwight drives to the prison and then follows the Cleland family to a restaurant where they are celebrating Wade's release. After causing a scene there, Dwight cleans himself up and then visits his sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves), to ensure that she is OK and to warn her that the Cleland's may be coming after her. Following this, Dwight decides to wage a one-man war on the Clelands, with the help of an old friend, Ben (Devin Ratray). As Dwight embarks on his mission, we learn what Wade did and how it effected Dwight's life.
To put it bluntly, Blue Ruin is an odd film. The above synopsis may seem fairly straight-forward, but that's because I only hit on the high-notes. There is a lot more happening here. When I say that Dwight is homeless, that's not meant to glamorize someone who has chosen to live off of the land. With his ragged hair and beard, he is truly a "Beach Bum" (one of the film's original titles) and watching him eat out of a trash-can only emphasizes this. We are truly surprised when his car actually starts. There is no dialogue for much of the first act, as we watch Dwight stalk and follow the Clelands. At this point, we have no idea why. As Dwight's mission becomes more dangerous, and it becomes clear that the Clelands want him dead, he is forced to become a man of action. And yet, he is still the same man of few words who appears to have been away from society for so long that he doesn't know how to interact with others. We watch Dwight enter very dangerous situations in a non-chalant manner and we're not sure if it's because he's not afraid to die or if he's simply so far gone that he doesn't understand what is going on.
Despite these quirks, Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier has created a mesmerizing film. The first act is a gamble, as the viewer could easily be turned off by the fact that there is little talking and we don't know exactly what is happening. However, we've seen enough movies to know that Dwight is heading into a dangerous situation, and we want to see what happens next. As this section subsides, the story and characters begin to get fleshed out, and by this time, we are on-board with Dwight's mission. The movie also gets a huge boost from the fact that Dwight is 100% sure what he's doing. While he's clever, he's not Rambo and he gets hurt along the way. Despite the very dark tone of the film, Dwight's over-eager and sometimes bumbling methods do lend some much-needed levity to the film.
The true center of Blue Ruin is actor Macon Blair. While he often has a blank look which communicates the way in which Dwight has checked out from "normal" life, he also brings a great deal of personality to the character. While he only says a few words here and there, Blair is able to get across the need which Dwight has to see this thing through. He also keeps us guessing about Dwight's state of mind -- While he's always calm, at times we see a certain mania in his eyes. The supporting cast is very good as well, mostly notably Devin Ratray, whose sense of calm which learning of Dwight's plan perfectly fits this subtle film.
While Blue Ruin has some very familiar elements (revenge, family feuds, redemption), it plays them out in a very unique way. This is one of the more quiet and understated action films that you'll ever see, but rest assured, it does deliver on the gore and gunplay. With Dwight, the film has given us an odd anti-hero -- We understand his need for closure, but we're not sure if he's the right man for the job. Saulnier milks tension from several scenes, although I must say that the scene which is meant to be the most shocking is telegraphed before hand. Saulneir and Blair decided that this would be their big try at making a feature film and Blue Ruin certainly promises good things from their futures.
Blue Ruin should renew your faith in American cars on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild amounts of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark. The image has a nice crispness to it which belies the film's low budget -- This helps to deliver notable detail and depth from the picture. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix does a fine job of finding clever ways for the sound to enhance the film. During the first action scene, we get detailed stereo and surround effects which place us in the middle of the action and thus heightening the tension. The same goes for the finale, when little sounds play a very important role in Dwight's safety. These effects are detailed and show good speaker separation. The gunshots are receive an exclamation point from the subwoofer.
The Blue Ruin Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair. "No Regrets: The Making of Blue Ruin" (19 minutes) is an in-depth look at the film's background. Saulnier and Blair set the scene by describing their background together and the way in which, piece-by-piece, they put this movie together. We also hear from the other cast members and the producers who discuss how they got involved in the movie (through the "Blue Ruin Scam"). There is some nice on-set footage here. The Disc contains two DELETED SCENES which run about five minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Saulnier and Blair. Both of these are extended versions of scenes from the film. "Camera Test" (4 minutes) grants us access to the footage shot to convey the look of the film and help get the project off of the ground.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long