Dwight (Macon Blair) is a good son. He lives out of the back of a bullet-ridden blue Pontiac that seems to be part of the landscape in a small Southern town near the ocean. Unshaven and haunted of demeanor, he sneaks baths in people’s houses and prowls the boardwalk garbage cans for dinner. One day a compassionate local police officer gives this good son news of the impending release of his parents’ murderer. Some kind of weapon needs to be procured, his sister needs to be protected and the bloody and surprisingly delicate tale of one of the most inept avengers in modern moviedom begins.
Blue Ruin is equal parts these films: At Close Range, Matewan, Straw Dogs, Mud, the Coen brothers oeuvre and especially Winter’s Bone in that the impetus for the proceedings, Dwight’s father (whose adultery with the mother of a vengeful white trash family spurs this hang-a-shore Hatfield and McCoys story), like the father in the aforementioned film, never makes an appearance. Heck, the object of Dwight’s vengeance is only in the film for five minutes. This movie isn’t so much a chase as a circling of buzzards waiting to kill or die.
And Dwight is no one’s idea of a hero. Like Gene Hackman‘s character in Night Moves, “a detective who can’t detect his way out of a wet paper bag”, Dwight would trip over his own shoelaces even on his best day, let alone seem to be able to evade crossbows and shotguns.
Budgetary concerns may drive the evocative minimalism of this film and it’s the better for it. The fog which floats and covers Dwight’s road trip seems more solid and tangible than the ghost he’s become. Usually there’s clench-jawed, cumbersome exposition from characters in this genre. Here, a lot with a little is the rule of the day.
It’s also not a cool shooter of a movie. The mayhem and bloodshed is exceptional in workman-like fashion. The family Dwight is after and who’re after him are only working with the tools of their trade. Assume drugs and moonshine. It’s your stereotype after all. Dwight is schooled in his choice of firepower by a high school friend who’s former military and now works in a Death Metal bar. The lessons are purely vocational and the connection between these two men seems sadly long lost but taut as a chain now that Dwight needs help. The take-it-for-granted gun-toting in the film plays with the entire all in/all out notion of firearms in America. There are no “rights” or even “right and wrong” discussed. The film doesn’t even enter a gray area of the argument. This is about family.
Deuteronomy 24:16. The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
Exodus 20:5. God will lay the sins of the parents on the heads of the children. The exact nature of this instruction pertains to the parent hating God.
Mind you this is playing out on the ground, not the next world, but it’s interesting to consider a theme like this. If a guiding hand is at work, doesn’t Deuteronomy clear Dwight’s books right there? Then again Dwight’s father broke his fair share of the commandments. Isn’t disobeying God, hating God? Of course free will is also covered in the good book. Dwight made this choice to put paid to the ledger of his family’s pain.
Or just consider the locale. This is an Appalachian murder ballad. A tale about trying to stop old hurt and shame and at a certain point, in those songs, blood needs to spill to stop all that. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 7/22/14