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Blue Ruin Blu-ray Review

Blue Ruin (2014) movie poster Blue Ruin

Theatrical Release: April 25, 2014 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Cast: Macon Blair (Dwight Evans), Devin Ratray (Ben Gaffney), Amy Hargreaves (Sam Evans), Kevin Kolack (Teddy Cleland), Eve Plumb (Kris Cleland), David W. Thompson (William), Brent Werzner (Carl Cleland), Stacy Rock (Hope Cleland), Sidné Anderson (Officer Eddy), Sandy Barnett (Wade Cleland, Jr.), Bonnie Johnson (Margaret Gaffney)

Buy Blue Ruin from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video

Some filmmakers make a big splash right out of the gate. Others reveal their talent gradually. Writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier would appear to belong to the latter class. His feature debut, the horror comedy Murder Party, didn't get anyone's attention in its 2007 release. At a quick glance, his follow-up, the revenge drama Blue Ruin, doesn't seem to have had a much greater impact,
grossing only a quarter of a million dollars in just 60 theaters last spring. But this low-budget independent film previously made the festival circuit, earning recognition everywhere from Cannes to Hawaii. It also received an impressive 95% approval rating from critics. It's the type of movie that seems destined to be discovered after Saulnier moves on to bigger things and inspires fans to revisit his under-the-radar previous work.

Blue Ruin centers on Dwight Evans (Macon Blair), a husky, feral drifter seemingly in his thirties. The long and thickly bearded Dwight lives out of his old car and sneaks baths in beach homes he breaks into. With scant dialogue and an absolute minimum of exposition, this minimalist opening reveals that after twenty years in jail, a double murderer is being released as the result of his plea bargain. Dwight is picked up by police and notified of the release, we come to learn, because the murderer's two victims were his parents. Dwight wastes no time tracking down this Wade Cleland and killing him with a knife to his throat.

The death is not reported to the police, with Wade's family deciding to keep the matter "in house" and avenge as they see fit. This scenario of backwoods justice troubles Dwight, who tracks down his sister (Amy Hargreaves), whom he has not seen in years. Worrying that she and her two young children will make for easy targets, Dwight then looks up an old friend from high school, Ben Gaffney (Devin Ratray), and asks him for a favor: the weaponry and firepower needed to end this deadly war between these two mid-Atlantic families.

The title "Blue Ruin" may very well refer to the aging 1990 Pontiac Bonneville, evidently inherited from his parents, that Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) drives. Devin Ratray (Buzz from "Home Alone") plays Ben Gaffney, an old high school friend who's happy to help Dwight as needed.

Blue Ruin is brutally violent at times, guaranteed to make even the most desensitized of viewers wince at the sight of its very realistic gore. Such scenes are scattered, though, and relatively brief, allowing you to find the remainder of the film gripping even if the sight of blood makes you queasy. Saulnier supplies more than enough story and atmosphere to keep you engaged throughout this fast-moving 90-minute rural thriller.

The film is artfully shot, giving an alluring blue tint to indoor and outdoor night scenes (which explains the title less than the 1990 Pontiac Bonneville Dwight drives). It's also economical, with no shot, line or character registering as excessive or superfluous. Dwight is an intriguing antihero;
a quiet man who tries his hardest to treat himself when he takes an arrow to his thigh (the scene in which you'll most be tempted to cover your eyes). The truth is more complicated than first indicated and bigger than the film, but what we get of it grabs and holds our attention.

This is an unconventional film, something that explains both the limited release by The Weinstein Company's Radius-TWC label and the widespread admiration submitted by critics fatigued by seeing the same old movie so many times over. With its appealing blend of style and substance, Blue Ruin is comparable to something like Drive and if it had similar star power, it might have very well experienced the commercially muted but passionately embraced reception. Besides Ratray, recently seen in Nebraska but probably forever best known as Home Alone's Buzz McCallister, Eve Plumb (Jan from "The Brady Bunch") makes a brief, unrecognizable appearance, earning her first theatrical credit in over ten years. Needless to say, these are not actors that sell tickets, nor is this film likely to change that.

A now clean-shaven Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) waits and hides in "Blue Ruin."

One of the best-reviewed films of 2014 so far, Blue Ruin comes to Blu-ray and DVD next week from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Blue Ruin Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Also available on DVD ($24.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Blue Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

Collecting a little over $35,000 from Kickstarter donations, Blue Ruin is clearly a low-budget film. But it disguises that fact completely in the Blu-ray's highly satisfying feature presentation. The 2.40:1 widescreen picture is clean, sharp, and nicely defined throughout. Equally agreeable is the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, which does a great job of distributing the sometimes pulsing electronic score. More of a reflection of the characters than their accents or the quality of the sound recordings, the dialogue can be tough to make out at times, which renders the English SDH subtitles useful for occasional consultation.

Writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier describes the unconventional path to making "Blue Ruin" in "No Regrets." An amusement park's haunted house ride casts an eerie blue tint over Dwight's hairy face in this extended opening.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's bonus features begin with an audio commentary by writer-director-cinematographer Jeremy Saulnier and star Macon Blair. They bring clear passion to both the film and this commentary,

addressing what's onscreen as the product of a lifelong friendship and a fast, thrifty, unconventional production. Downing beers as they watch, they cite influences, acknowledge contributors, and discuss the evolution of scenes and moments.

On the video side, where all extras are encoded in HD, we begin with "No Regrets: The Making of Blue Ruin" (18:56), which features surprisingly traditional cast and crew sitdowns, minimal behind-the-scenes footage and pictures, and some brief clips of auditions and even Saulnier and Blair's violent childhood movies. The atypical success and creative journey make this an unusually good featurette.

Two deleted scenes (4:59) are presented with optional Saulnier and Blair commentary. An extended opening finds Dwight taking in an amusement park's haunted house ride, while the other shows Dwight making a challenging getaway.

Finally, we get a July 2012 camera test (3:52) efficiently conveying the film's intended look and tone and shot to recruit cast, crew and backers during location scouting.

The disc opens with a redband trailer for Snowpiercer and a greenband one for 13 Sins. Regrettably but unsurprisingly, Blue Ruin's own trailer isn't included here.

The menu plays scored clips above a bar of listings. Sadly, like other Weinstein Blu-rays, this one doesn't let you set bookmarks or resume playback.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the plain blue keepcase and full-color disc.

In "Blue Ruin", feral drifter Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) has his mind set on revenge.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Blue Ruin stands out from the pack with unique, natural rhythms, pacing and structure. Its graphic violence is certain to turn away some intelligent viewers and attract some dumb ones, but the few cringeworthy moments of gore do not undo the good will earned by its atmospheric, unorthodox, and streamlined drama.

Anchor Bay's Blu-ray delivers first-rate picture and sound plus an unusually very good handful of extras. There's definitely enough here to warrant a look.

Buy Blue Ruin from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Jeremy Saulnier: Green Room
Drive • Thief • Only God Forgives • Winter's Bone • Take Shelter • No Country for Old Men
New: 13 Sins • Lone Survivor • The Lunchbox • Heaven Is for Real | Devin Ratray: Nebraska • Surrogates • Perfect Harmony
Animal Kingdom • Blood Simple. • Rectify: Season 1

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Reviewed July 17, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Radius-TWC, Memento Films, Filmscience, Neighborhoodw Watch Films, Paradise City, Lab of Madness,
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.