Blue Ruin – Blu-ray review

How far will you go to get revenge? The answer in Blue Ruin - a dark and slow-burning thriller - is to great lengths and even when you finally achieve it, there may be no satisfaction gained.

Winning several awards during its festival run in 2013 (including the FIPRESCI prize at Directors' Fortnight in Cannes for director Jeremy Saulnier), this partly Kickstarter-funded film finally hits home cinema with this Blu-ray release.

The Film

Macon Blair's Dwight is a vagrant living in his tattered, filthy car (the 'Blue Ruin' of the title), and like the car, he's a dishevelled shell of a man; eating from bins and breaking into houses to have a bath. Why he found himself in this situation is never really explained, and he seems to be adrift in life, completely alone.

That changes when he's told that the man who killed his parents is being released from jail. This sets Dwight on a quest for revenge that takes him to some unfamiliar and uncertain places as a family feud is revealed that threatens his life and the life of his family.

To go into detail could be considered a spoiler, but there's not much more to Blue Ruin than that.

Saulnier (who wrote, directed and edited the film) and Blair have crafted a character in Dwight who appears to have lost hope but is quietly determined.

His listless, unkempt appearance is all the backstory we need to know that he's gone off the deep end and doesn't look like he'll ever make it back. He's not the smartest or the most capable, and he's most definitely not equipped for what's about to happen, but the need for revenge drives him on.

Despite the nature of the story, Blue Ruin is not a typical revenge film. There are no last-minute heroics or carthartic release to save the day. It's a film filled with ugly, remorseless characters and the violence - of which there's little - is unflinching and ugly.

While the film's pacing might put some off, and the opening half presents more questions than answers, it's a tense and unflinching film about the depths people will go to get closure; even if that means killing someone to get it.

The video

Shot digitally, the film's visuals are slightly washed out giving the film a cold, pale look. Unsurprisingly blue is the dominant colour (although we're not sure if the colour has any meaning), with at least one shade of it in virtually every scene.

There's a decent amount of detail, too, with Dwight's car a good showcase for the level of dirt and grime it's accrued. Blacks are decent enough although they're not quite as inky black as you'd expect, with skin tones looking natural enough.

For a low-budget, independent film, it's a fine showing.

The sound

Much like the man character there's not much to shout about when it comes to the film's soundtrack. Dialogue is the key element here (there's also an ambient score but it melts into the film and you never really notice it).

The first 20 minutes lacks much in the way of any meaningful talk, placing the emphasis on environmental sounds that help to immerse the viewer in what's happening. Gunshots explode and whiz across the screen with satisfying impact but all in a low-key soundtrack.

Not one to raise the hair on your neck, but it aids the film's sense of reality.

The features

Not a lot, but a decent selection including the camera test that secured the film’s funding, a 20-minute behind the scenes look at the production and three deleted scenes running a total of five minutes.

Strangely the audio commentary on the US Blu-ray does not appear to have made the trip for this Blu-ray release from Channel 4.

The verdict

As a dark, unpredictable thriller, Blue Ruin defies the expectations of the thriller/revenge genre (it doesn't fit easily into either).

There's a sense of mystery and the way the story unfolds is nicely done, with revelations drawing you in further into this cold film. It deserves to be seen at least once.

Kob began his career at What Hi-Fi?, starting in the dusty stockroom before rising up the ranks to join the editorial and production team as the Buyer’s Guide editor. Experienced in both magazine and online publishing, he now runs the TV & audio section at Trusted Reviews where he keeps a beady eye on all the latest comings and goings in the hi-fi and home cinema market.