Blue Ruin

May 1, 2014

  It's how a good revenge thriller should be made.

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” ― Confucius

Blue Ruin is the way to make a thriller: suspenseful with a memorable protagonist and themes that apply to us all. This film chronicles the revenge of a nerd, Dwight (Macon Blair), who's living like a tramp and discovering the murderer of his parents has been released from prison.  He's bound for revenge with the psychic damage from losing his parents on the loose with him.

The suspense comes from Dwight’s messy plans, driven by passion but no experience with the nuances of guns or justice. In other words it's the way you and I might bumble through such an enterprise without the faintest notion how to do it. The resulting bloodbath involves the rival Cleland clan in a bloodier version of the Hatfield-McCoy fiasco.

Although Dwight initially appears to lack affect and generally remains inscrutable, the film quietly exposes his passion and humanity, especially as he tries to reconcile with his estranged sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves), and save her family from the marauding Clelands. They have easily followed Dwight’s trail with its clues that a better avenger such as those played by Charles Bronson or Liam would never have left. However, Sam is not impressed with his meager generosity: "I'd forgive you if you were crazy, but you're not; you're weak."

A light interaction between Dwight and Cleland redneck Teddy (a fine Kevin Kolack) while Dwight imprisons him in the trunk of the Blue Ruin (Dwight’s ‘90’s bullet-ridden Bonneville) is an example of how director/writer Jeremy Sauliner can mix up the moods, from horrifying to humorous and not confuse the audience. The repartee between Teddy and Dwight is witty and revelatory because Teddy, facing Dwight’s gun, has the gumption to upbraid Dwight and offer the painful information that maybe the recently-released Wade Cleland is innocent. The situation’s absurdity lightens the revenge load and offers a new perspective on the theme that revenge is never nice and almost always unfulfilling.

“An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at