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Everybody loves “Blue Ruin” – it is one of the critics’ and festivals’ favourites of the last year, and it becomes immediately apparent why this is so. Revenge films, skilfully derived plots to make the murderers of a poor child’s family suffer decades later, we have seen all that, and plenty.

Blue  Ruin is the “neorealist” version of this, with proper crooks, and proper weapons, and proper victims, but with all the things that are complicated about taking revenge, about hurting and killing. It is the revenge film equivalent to that famous Hitchcock saying that he wanted to show how very difficult it was to actually kill somebody when directing the killing of Gromek in “Torn Curtain”… and it’s not just taking revenge, it is also difficult and messy and painful to endure injuries during such a quest – and counter to popular (certainly Rambo-educated) belief it is not very easy to pull put the head of an arrow from your leg, not easy at all.

A lot of the tension of “Blue Ruin” comes from the fact that Dwight (whose parents were killed years ago, and who is now out to take revenge) must realise this. He is not a trained killer. He is a bum, actually, without the physical or technical skills to take on a bunch of hinterland wildlings who apparently have been in the business of hurting and killing people for generations. What makes Dwight a hero  – in this twisted sense of doing the wrong thing, but for understandable reasons and against an apparently overwhelming enemy – is that he accepts his deficits and acts according to his best abilities anyway. He has nothing to lose, his life having long slipped to somewhere near the edge of existence. So he is taking step after step, not because he would be in a revenge frenzy, but he set himself a task, and completing that task involves revenge itself as well as limiting damage to others.

There is a little bit of traditional revenge style twist to be found (some deus ex machina with shooting skills comes to mind), but even that does not affect the overall feeling of naturalism, of things turning out one of several possible ways, and of things happening in front of a beautiful and beautifully shot backdrop of one of those American regions “between places”, where nobody seriously wants to live, but that still seems to be full of people with their own agendas and troubles…

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/blue_ruin/

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