Review Roundup - Sympathy for mister vengeance

BLUE RUIN (2013)

Revenge on the screen is as usual a dish best served cold, but in the case of Blue Ruin it's even more bitter than usual. The film tells the story of a man apparently living just for vengeance, as the protagonist Dwight first appears on screen with a full beard, having given up on the world to eat from the trash and live out of a blue car which both represents the name of the film but also appears to be symbolic of his own mental state - rusted and full of holes but ready to be refueled for action at the right time. This time soon comes along when the man who killed his parents is given an early release from prison. There are no real heroics here, no delusions of grandeur. This is a movie where the premise has been stripped of all that so that the moral bleakness of the events can take place without any kind of righteous ideals; it's an intense and dark experience.

In most films about vengeance, there is always a sense that death is coming to those who deserve it even when the psychological cost of the act itself can take its toll. In many cases the hero will work there way to a big bad through their underlings, and some kind of justice will be dished out in one way or another. But here everything is a grey area, when even the murder that sets things in motion may not have taken place in the way that the main character had imagined. It's a twist on a well worn genre that adds a lot to the story. Nothing here is done in the usual way, even things like breaking into a house or stealing a car - before they ever get to the act of taking revenge. Each step along the way is frustrating in a realistic sense when Dwight injures himself just trying to puncture someones car tires. He becomes visibly tired, bleeding and lost on his journey. It's a great portrayal of someone that has nothing else left - by choice in some ways when it seems they have family members they have left behind out there. Even when he becomes less disheveled looking later on it seems as though the man is damaged inside and his actions are just against ordinary people who are foolish and human rather than evil. There is no grand plan, just a series of ill conceived events that often go wrong and have unexpected results.

While much of this works a few small elements do seem out of place; considering the difficulty Dwight comes into elsewhere he tracks down an old school friend to buy a weapon with relative ease, one that lives in a conveniently secluded area. There may even be one twist too many be the end of the story. But these moments are far and few between, rarely taking from the building tension throughout. Things slowly ramp up even though the movie has no real action or big sequences, the drama is always growing and the seriousness of what is about to go down is never undermined. There's a lot of depth and it does a great job of subverting the expectations of this kind of movie when often clich├ęs and melodrama can drain away the effectiveness of how things turn out.



Jean-Pierre Jeunet is known for interesting fantasy adventures, and this is a strange mixture of those kinds of elements from The City of Lost Children and more grounded themes. The problem is that the whimsical style and the story beats about death and loss don't really gel together in a way that keeps the tone at a consistent level. On the one hand you have a child genius with an eccentric family who becomes a celebrity for creating what is almost the perpetual motion machine... but elsewhere it has elements about running away from home and dealing with wounds from traumatic past events which are in dire need of attention. Choosing to drop the kooky family or make it entirely about serious drama would have worked a lot better. It also has far too much narration from the central actor, and while he does a fine job along with the rest of the cast this isn't enough to carry a distracting amount of spoken exposition.Visually it's interesting but there are far too many different ideas fighting for attention.