Blue Ruin feels like a feature-length version of the suspenseful, often silent showdowns found within understated thrillers. I’m thinking Coen Bros specifically – the climax of Blood Simple, or the hotel showdown between Chirgurh and Moss in No Country for Old Men. Executed right, these scenes practically define the cliché “on the edge of one’s seat” thanks to detail, clarity, surprises and, most importantly, a sense of frail humanity. The success of these scenes – and Blue Ruin – relies on a physical connection between the audience and the events on-screen, a plausible fragility.
Blue Ruin needs to sustain itself beyond tense confrontations and suspenseful showdowns, and it does so with a minimalist narrative constructed on bedrock of revenge and twisted familial loyalty. Perhaps too minimal, to be honest; the film is at its best in the early scenes as it portions out plot details like a thin gruel, but when the entire story is unveiled it doesn’t quite justify the wait.
The narrative is almost beside the point. Violence begets violence begets violence and the reasons are unsatisfying by necessity. The film, thankfully, is entirely satisfying, with restrained but engaging pacing and a sympathetic, mournful performance from Macon Blair in the lead.