***1/2 out of ****
Here is an independent thriller with a surprisingly humble background. Every now and then, you hear about childhood friends who make movies and eventually rise to have great opportunities. Blue Ruin is a rare example of when artists find the right level of financial support, just as they’re coming into mastering their craft after years of practice.
The movie is simple, low-budget but professional and inventive in every admirable way. The protagonist is played by Macon Blair, lifetime friend of the film’s writer/director, Jeremy Saulnier. Blair’s face is not what you’d expect from the lead in a revenge thriller. His awkward nature and expressive eyes do not assure us of any kind of invincibility. The actions he takes in the film are all the more intense because he looks so vulnerable.
The best thing about movies like this is how they tell a story that big studios would gladly tell with big names attached, but this one has no recognizable faces. As much as I appreciate the talented work of famous actors, it is so refreshing to enjoy a story without the distraction of their presence. The more familiar we are with an actor, the less concern we feel for their character. We bring an unconscious comfort that they’re just playing a part and we lose concern for the consequences that their character may face. This character is an intriguing stranger to us and he needs to be.
He is a wandering vagrant, only skilled at sneaking in and out of people’s homes to stay fed, clothed and clean. Upon hearing about a man’s release from prison, he takes measures to commit a murder. What’s unconventional in this revenge movie is the way that the revenge is at the beginning, while the rest of the film is about learning the purpose of the revenge and its dreadfully ugly aftermath.