Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sundance ’14: Blue Ruin
only takes one family to launch a feud. By the same token, an emotionally
damaged drifter hopes it will only take one family member to end it. Revenge is
indeed the gift that keeps on giving but never fully satisfies in Jeremy
Saulnier’s Blue Ruin (trailer here), which screened
at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
the murder of his parents, Dwight Evans’ psyche just disintegrated. In recent
years, he has survived hand-to-mouth, often living uninvited in the homes of
vacationing families, until they return. Then he resumes crashing in his beat
up blue four door sedan. His anaesthetized existence is interrupted by a
sympathetic police officer, who informs Evans the man who killed his parents is
about to be released from parole.
Cleland is a member of the thuggish Cleland clan. Even though they own a successful
limousine rental company, they are more comfortable with back hills living. Vengeance is definitely the sort of thing they
are better at, but Evans shadows Cleland from prison to his roadhouse celebration
nonetheless. He is clearly an inexperienced killer, as we see firsthand when he
confronts Cleland alone in the men’s room.
From there, one darned thing leads inexorably to another, generating a
whole lot of angst and bodies, but also threatening to engulf Evans’ estranged sister
and her family.
its essence, Ruin is equally akin to
classical tragedy and hillbilly exploitation films. Saulnier’s execution is wickedly effective,
showing all the awkwardness of killing and the messiness of the resulting aftermath.
Frankly, some of the most inspired scenes in Ruin are the bits most films gloss over. Yet, the tension never
flags, notwithstanding the occasional punctuations of gruesome humor.
Evans, co-executive producer Macon Blair is one of the most intense sad sacks
you will ever see on screen. He is a palpably haunted presence, but shows
flashes of inspiration, making it impossible not to root for him, despite his
alarming tendency to make mistakes. He commands the film, but Devin Ratray adds
some welcome attitude and general humanity as Evans’ well armed high school
friend, Ben Gaffney. Eve Plumb (a.k.a. Jan Brady) is also all kinds of fierce
as the ruthless Kris Cleland, thereby guaranteeing Ruin a sizable cult following.
They won’t be disappointed either. Blue Ruin is a taut and evocative thriller
that utilizes its southern gothic violence for comedic and elegiac purposes. It
is a cooker, recommended for anyone who enjoys payback cinema. With a
theatrical and VOD release coming from Radius-TWC, Blue Ruin will also screen at the SF Indie Fest on February 16th
& 20th, following its Spotlight selection at this year’s
Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Sundance '14