It’s one heck of an intro: in rural Virginia a scruffy, bearded, homeless man, Dwight (Macon Blair) receives word that a certain prisoner has been granted early parole. Firing up the car he’s been sleeping in for six years, Dwight heads to the jail, follows the man to a bar, corners him in the gents and… bam.
It’s a taut, unflinching first act – but where to go from here? It’s a question that writer-director Jeremy Saulnier never really manages to answer. Somewhat inevitably, Dwight finds himself facing an entire family of white-trash psychos, hauling in old high-school buddy Ben (Devin Ratray, or Buzz from ‘Home Alone’ for those with long memories) as back-up. But as the bodies pile up and the plot circles in on itself, that beautifully constructed web of suspense begins to unravel.
‘Blue Ruin’ is crisply photographed, powerfully acted and packs a fistful of nasty surprises. But it can’t decide if it wants to be a full-throttle redneck revenge flick or a more thoughtful slice of indie drama like ‘Winter’s Bone’. Attempts at emotional depth fail to convince; Blair’s underdog demeanour may keep us rooting for him, but there’s not a great deal more to him. ‘Blue Ruin’ starts with a bang and ends with a shrug, but stays entertaining throughout.