Friday, 6 September 2013

BLUE RUIN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - #TIFF 2013 - Vengeance is mine Sayeth the Storyteller, so bugger off!

Blue Ruin (2013) ***
Dir. Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Macon Blair

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Vengeance is always a fine motive for any movie character. It delivers the kind of cathartic kick to the stomach that many of us enjoy receiving. Though many such tales come attached with a sense of loss and/or remorse, there are just as many that celebrate the actions of the vigilante without too many strings attached.

Blue Ruin gets to have its cake and eat it too. Such storytelling gluttony can easily belch up work that bites off far more than it can chew, but here, the narrative manages to tuck away its disparate elements with modesty so that we are happily engaged for a good deal of the picture's running time and occasionally confounded in the satisfying ways one might hope for. With this, his sophomore feature effort, the loaded-writer-director-cinematographer-bases Jeremy Saulnier holds, don't quite benefit from a grand slam, but a couple of decent hits yield enough good play that we're engaged by a relatively fresh take on the genre.

Saulnier's direction is always taut, though his script feels occasionally too clever for its own good. At times we can see the stitching of his desire to take us in unexpected directions - so much so, that we're occasionally taken out of the narrative's trajectory because we become a bit too conscious of wondering just how Saulnier will surprise us. Granted, I'd prefer to find fault in writing that works overtime, but I lament equally that Saulnier pays a bit of a price for this. It's the sort of minor flaw that feels like I'm griping about an embarrassment of riches.

So be it - the tale feels one polish short of a kind of perfection the film deserves. Though, give me this complaint anytime, thanks. It beats complaining about no originality or ambition.

Dwight (Macon Blair) is our vengeance-seeking hero. As introduced to us, he's a most unlikely Paul Kersey (architect-tuned-NYC-vigilante in Death Wish) or Buford Pusser (the big-stick-wielding Tennessee Sheriff of Walking Tall), but rather, a kind of Virginia Ratso Rizzo living off garbage and spending his nights in a rust-bucket on the beach. Upon receiving information about an imminent prison release, he desperately and haphazardly commits an act of revenge that is as bumbling as it is jaw dropping in its ferocious brutality.

He errs, however, in leading those closest to the person he extracts vengeance from straight in the direction of some innocent people. The entire reason for his violent actions turns itself inside out and we become witness to a terrifying cat and mouse of mounting payback. Amidst the carnage, we're treated to a telling reflection of American gun culture as well as a kind of scathing matter-of-fact exploration of White Trash loyalties rooted as they are in survival and a sense of entitlement at all costs.

Macon Blair's performance as the hapless Dwight is a marvel of balance - we're constantly empathetic with this sad, beaten man who gains a sense of self respect in the most misplaced action imaginable and finally must gird his loins to the challenges of an ever deepening chasm of violence. The hole he digs for himself is somewhat reminiscent of William H. Macy's spiralling actions in Fargo, but Dwight, unlike Jerry the car salesman, is far from lazy and just plain stupid. Blair shows us a genuine sensitivity and intelligence in a man debilitated by an initial perpetration of violence against him that sets him into a spiral of depression and obsession which, furthermore plunges him into making one horrible mistake after another.

Finally, he's faced with a myriad of loose ends that can mean only the worst thing imaginable for those who deserve it least. Someone needs to tie them up and Dwight is finally the only one who can. Any initial feelings of elation we might have received from the vengeance extracted transform to utter disbelief in a world that does indeed seem to be responsible for forcing people into living by codes that should have been left to myth rather than the reality of practise.

Saulnier's picture is yet another that says, "Welcome to America," and in so doing leaves us speechless.

"Blue Ruin" is part of the TIFF Vanguard Series at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013. Visit the TIFF website HERE.