The thriller genre, and especially the revenge thriller genre, has become saturated with so many films (and many of them of dubious quality), that I have become generally sick of the genre. Gone are the days of Alfred Hitchcock and other master filmmakers, and in are the days of films who use thriller tropes for cheap scares or pointless bloodshed. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised by Blue Ruin; it manages to capture the essence of the classic thriller without becoming cliché or banal.
Blue Ruin was crafted by writer and director Jeremy Sauliner. It stars Macon Blair as homeless loner Dwight, who discovers that the man who murdered his parents is set to be released from prison. He decides to seek vengeance. However, the film is not really about revenge itself; thankfully, as that path is very well worn. Rather, the point of the movie is about actions and consequences. This includes both Dwight and the antagonists who, while not as well-developed as they could be, are convincing characters rather than faceless goons. Also unlike many similar movies, Dwight is not painted as heroic; rather, his actions are shown as violent and gruesome, just as a bloody quest for vengeance would be.
Speaking of violence, this movie is not a gorefest. Yes, there is violence of course, some of it quite graphic, but there is a reason for all of it. Violence in this movie is an integral part of the story, not a distraction from lack of plot or character development (I’m looking at you, Punisher). Further, all of it is shown extremely realistically; weapons produce exactly the kind of wounds you think they would, and injuries sustained by Dwight don’t magically disappear. This is one of the best ways the film distinguishes itself from ordinary action or bad thriller movies; if you hate pointless gore in films like me, you’ll be pleased.
Just as the use of violence is not over-the-top, the use of dialogue in Blue Ruin is similarly subtle. Macon Blair plays the loner, and as would be expected, he doesn’t talk much. But when he (or anyone else) does decide to speak, the words are always well-crafted and well-delivered. And like any good thriller director, Jeremy Sauliner knows when silence is more suspenseful than blood or screams. Blue Ruin plays with your suspense and expectations; sometimes it does exactly what you think will happen, sometimes it throws you some black humor for comic relief, and occasionally something will come completely out of left-field. It gives you just enough of what you’ve come to expect to make you interested, and gives enough turns to keep your interest.
While it’s true that the thriller has somewhat lost its reputation due to the sheer saturation of the genre in recent years, Blue Ruin shows that there is still a place for those that are crafted well. Macon Blair’s wonderful performance gives Dwight’s quest significant substance, but not justification. This quest, bloody but compelling, in turn gives the film a pace and tone that manages to be serious and suspenseful but not trite. Subtle, understated and compelling, Blue Ruin shows that, in the realm of suspense, sometimes less is more.