“Blue Ruin” – Nathan’s Movie Challenge, Week 19
“That’s how this works, man. The one with the gun gets to tell the truth.”
So this is a Coen Brothers movie, right? What’s that? It’s not? You could have fooled me!
The style of the Coens is all over this unusually acerbic take on a revenge thriller. Like many of their films, it’s funny – but not for traditionally comedic reasons. Instead, the humor is derived from the preposterous turns of events that take place over the course of the film, and how nothing ever goes according to plan. It’s much in the same arena as films like Blood Simple or No Country for Old Men in terms of the overall tone and aesthetic. If Blue Ruin were going up against those films in a matchup, it’d probably come between No Country in the lead and Blood Simple pulling behind.
The protagonist Dwight (played by actor Macon Blair) is simultaneously damaged beyond repair and extremely dangerous to himself – and everyone around him. He knows he’s getting himself into a mess, but he can’t resist it. He anchors the entire film with a visage of alternating apathy, desperation, fear, self-loathing, and acceptance. His journey is one of madness, but by his own hand. As his sister confronts him with the understanding that he’s “not crazy – just weak”, we can’t help but feel bad for him, and want despartely to root him on. Unfortunately, that’s probably the last thing he should be doing.
Also worth spotlighting are the excellent supporting cast members – particularly Dwight’s despondent sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves), and his long-lost high school friend Ben (Devin Ratray) – who could have been a stereotype, but is played with just the right mix of personality and gravitas to make the character real and relatable.
It’s helpful that the film’s beautifully shot, and director Jeremy Saulnier takes his time setting up scenes of tension with long moments of calm before storms. It makes each confrontation that much more palpable when they come, and creates a real driving pace that propels the film forward. Anyone who might enjoy a tense, well-crafted revenge flick with a dash of intelligence and wit would be hard-pressed to find many better choices over Blue Ruin.
Blue Ruin was at the time of this review at #1742 on my Flickchart list of shame (ranked #2529 among the best films of all time). Here’s how it entered my chart:
Blue Ruin vs. Brotherhood of the Wolf
Brotherhood of the Wolf is a rather magnificent film, calling to mind the grandeur of Kurosawa, the creativity of the Wachowskis, the visual eye of Zack Snyder, and the action of John Woo. It’s going to hold its own against the worthy opponent in Blue Ruin.
Blue Ruin vs. Russkies
A quirky Cold War kid’s comedy won’t come close to Blue Ruin.
Blue Ruin vs. Evan Almighty
Eh, not much of a fan of the Almighty sequel. Blue Ruin takes it for sure.
Blue Ruin vs. Bend It Like Beckham
Beckham is a fine film, but I believe Blue Ruin is the better crafted of the two. If they were more similar in their goals, perhaps it might have been a closer matchup.
Blue Ruin vs. Cars
I’m a bit of a Cars apologist in that I don’t believe it to be the dross of Pixar that many believe it to be (that’s reserved for films like Brave, Up, and Monsters University for me) – but it’s not as affecting of a film as Blue Ruin.
Blue Ruin vs. Ghosts of the Abyss
It’s a Jim Cameron documentary, which is good, but it won’t beat out Blue Ruin.
Blue Ruin vs. What About Bob?
Now this is a bit more of a fight. Bill Murray is fantastic in Bob, and it’s one of the quirkiest comedies of its era. I still think I’ll give Blue Ruin the nod for its mix of visual aplomb and well-tuned characterizations.
Blue Ruin vs. Primer
There’s a lot to be impressed by in Primer. It does a whole lot with very little – a microbudget darling if ever there was one. That being said, it’s incredibly obtuse, and despite its status as the only film I’ve watched twice in a row, back-to-back, I’m letting Blue Ruin take the matchup.
Blue Ruin vs. Titan A.E.
One of the last hurrahs of traditional animation from Don Bluth and his team, Titan A.E. is a vastly underrated film. Still, it’s not the film that Blue Ruin is.
Blue Ruin vs. Leaving Las Vegas
If it wasn’t such an oppressively downer film, I might have given the nod to Leaving Las Vegas, but because Blue Ruin shows a bleak film can still be an enjoyable one, it will get my vote.
Blue Ruin is now ranked #706 out of 1409 movies on my Best Movies of All-Time chart.
Next up are Dolls and Appaloosa. In the meantime, check out the other films I’ve ranked during the challenge.