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BLUE RUIN (2014) Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidne' Anderson. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

"An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind" - Mahatma Gandhi. True as that may be, revenge is what drives this first-rate thriller from writer/director Jeremy Saulnier.

Macon Blair is superb as Dwight, a shaggy haired, long bearded homeless man living out of his old rusted out blue Pontiac down by the beach. When he's not breaking in to homes to catch an occasional bath, he's in the dumpsters digging for his next meal. A visit from a local police officer help us understand what happened to him. She informs Dwight that Will Cleland, the man who murdered both his parents, is about to be released from prison. As he gazes at her with hollow eyes the look on his face turns from a blank stare to one filled with acknowledgment and purpose.

He gets his car running , trades in cans for gas money, buys a map, and heads to the prison to wait for Cleland's release. Armed with just a knife he accomplishes what he set out to do. As days go by he realizes that the Cleland family didn't call the police, choosing instead to seek their own justice. He cleans himself up and drives over to see his estranged sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) to inform her about what he did and to warn her to take her children and leave town before the Clelands come looking for retribution.

This well crafted film was so good that I watched it twice. Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier keeps the tension up and the story moving at just the right pace. Before "Blue Ruin" he primarily worked as a cinematographer and so he knows how to work a scene and present it in a manner that is visually appealing and very realistic. The film is quite bloody and there's a scene with an arrow in the leg that is just grueling to watch. Devin Ratray brings some comic relief to the film (he was very funny in last years "Nebraska") and Eve Plumb (Jan Brady) shows up as a member of the Cleland clan. I was reminded of "Winter's Bone" while watching Blue Ruin and other films by Sam Peckinpah, the Coen Brothers and even Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, pretty good company. The future looks bright for Mr. Saulnier and I'm looking forward to his next project.

(4 stars)

Now showing at Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane (Austin), Starts Thursday May 1 at Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro (San Antonio) and Friday May 2 at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park (Houston).

reviewed April 24, 2014