Blue Ruin

blue ruin.jpg

A man leaves his bartending shift and is surprised to find an old friend who has been missing for years is standing next to his truck in the deserted parking lot. Dwight is bleeding from the leg and has a bandage on his hand, and he's popped up out of the blue because he needs help getting a gun. The bartender takes Dwight back to his house and gives him a rifle, no questions asked. But the bartender does give him one piece of advice: no big speeches. Just do the thing you aim to do without wasting time explaining why, because stopping to chat won't end well.

It's a warning that he needn't have given. Dwight isn't much for discussion. Halfway through the longest dialogue scene in the movie he tells his sister "I'm not used to talking this much", to which she responds "That's what people do." He has to think for a second before he answers "I know." Even if he did have a big speech in his head - and it doesn't seem like he does - then it would require a miracle to rip it out of him.

There's a lot to like in Blue Ruin. The sound design compensates for the lack of human voices with a lot of well textured ambient noises; the movie owes most of it's tense mood to the crisp silence of Dwight's world. The pacing is tight, since Dwight is going about his mission with a clarity of purpose that leaves very little time to go down rabbitholes. The compositions are framed in a way that gives the movie a powerfully melancholy air - Dwight tends to appear isolated in the frame, often because he's the only person in his broken down car. But this is not a movie whose script is going to win awards, and not just because Dwight's stoicism precludes crackling dialogue. The script is definitely functional, moving the story through it's paces methodically, but it isn't very complicated. That tight pacing has a bit of a drawback: if you are always moving forward you cut down on opportunities to hit a lot of twists and turns, and twists and turns are what give noirs their kick.

I was interested in Blue Ruin because I had heard that it was like a Coen brothers movie. I can see the comparison: there's a certain Old Testament quality to it, since Dwight is on a quest to take an eye to balance out the eye that was taken from him. But the Coen brothers have always made dense movies, where the characters are nuanced, the plots are complicated, and deep symbolism is often in play. Blue Ruin has it's aesthetic charms, and it has a great mood, but it lacks the intricacies that make the Coen brother's noirs more compelling than your average revenge thriller. In real life of course you'd advise your vengeance seeking friend to avoid speeches; they aren't that helpful in actual fire fights. But a big speech is a lot more helpful in a movie, because the goal here isn't efficiency - it's entertainment.

Winner: Draw

Blue Ruin on IMDB