BLUE RUIN (2014, Jeremy Saulnier)
I’ll give it credit for being consistently unpredictable — when a revenge thriller is directed with as much deadpan realism and gritty indie authenticity as this, you can’t rely on genre cliches to bail you out. (A more cynical critic might even call this a mumblecore action movie). But despite a series of yeah-that-probably-would-happen-if-a-normal-dude-tried-that consequences, this story does ultimately lead to a dumb and ineffective conclusion loaded with stock characters and bizarre, sub-Hatfields/McCoys hillbilly justice. There’s a lot of “my daddy and your mama” whining, and as incompetent as our hero is, he’s conveniently pitted against even more incompetent villains — who, when forced by Saulnier to huddle over an answering machine shaking their fists and making evil grunting noises, come across like even worse caricatures than those in films which are less ostensibly realistic.
I admire Saulnier’s ability to tell his story with minimal dialogue, little-to-no speechifying, and a brutal inspection of the nature of violence and its unstoppable nihilism. But I wish it had been cast with stronger actors (luckily its protagonist, played by Macon Blair, is the best, but the supporting players suffer a lot) and found a way to display its craftsmanship without resorting to the piling up of slack-jawed yokel bodies.