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Film / Blue Ruin

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Blue Ruin is a 2014 independent thriller directed by Jeremy Saulnier and starring Macon Blair. It was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign and premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the Director's Fortnight section.

The film tells the story of a broken man named Dwight, who learns that his parents' killer is being released from prison. Bloodthirsty and determined, Dwight tracks down his parents' killer and viciously murders him. Just as it seems his objective is over, he learns that the family of the killer is out to kill Dwight and his family for what he has done, forcing him into a tangled web of danger and revelation.

This film contains examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: The "Blue Ruin" of the title, a battered old Pontiac Bonneville.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Dwight's sister is glad to hear that Wade is dead. She's somewhat less glad to hear that Dwight left a car registered in her name at the murder scene.
  • Annoying Arrows: Subverted. After Dwight is shot in the leg with a crossbow, he at first treats it like no big deal. When he tries to remove the arrow himself, he winds up in the hospital with severe blood loss.
  • Asshole Victim: The fact that Wade killed a few black people, apparently for racial reasons, keeps Dwight sympathetic for essentially murdering him in cold blood.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Wade and the rest of the Clelands go to a bar like this following his release from prison.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Dwight's hobo beard doubles as one. He's been homeless since his parents were murdered and he was unable to cope.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Dwight is a wandering disheveled vagrant who keeps to himself mostly and tries not to bother anyone. He stabs a man to death very brutally within the first 30 minutes of the movie, before he prepares to weather the Cycle of Revenge that results.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In a Mexican Standoff, Dwight and the rest of the Cleland family end up shooting each other. Dwight succeeds in killing the family, but dies from the bullet wounds he sustained. William gets to live, at least. And so do Sam and her kids.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Dwight's a murderer, Teddy was clearly prepared to kill him in the most painful way possible, Cleland Sr killed Dwight's father, and Ben kills Teddy - albeit he waits until Teddy aims the gun at Dwight before shooting him.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Dwight is clearly a little shocked when Ben blows half of Teddy's head off with his rifle.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Ben tells Dwight that he might still have a photo of them as high school buddies at a strip club. As they part ways, Dwight tells Ben to burn the picture if he ever finds it, which he does.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Dwight might be looking for revenge, but he's just an emotionally wounded vagrant who's never plotted a murder before and finds himself woefully unprepared for what happens after he kills Wade.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: William, the boy Dwight finds in the Cleland limo. He is Dwight's half-brother.
  • The Clan: The Clelands.
  • Conflict Ball: Dwight murdering Wade. It later turns out that it could have been avoided since Wade didn't kill Dwight's parents.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: A totally Justified Trope on this occasion as it's revealed that Ben has a bead on Teddy the whole time when Dwight lets him out of the car, and it's all happening on his land anyway.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Ben Gaffney may be one.
  • Cycle of Revenge: One of the main themes of the movie. Cleland Sr. took revenge on Dwight's father for sleeping with his wife. Dwight kills Wade Jr in revenge for that, and the Clelands try to take revenge on Dwight. Dwight must continue killing Clelands because they refuse to drop the issue.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of vigilante movies. Dwight achieves his revenge early in the film, then spends the rest of the movie trying to repair the damages that it caused. He quickly regrets the consequences of his actions, especially after learning that the man he was really after is long dead.
    • Also shows what would happen in the real world if an untrained person attempted Self-Surgery.
  • The Drifter: Dwight.
  • Due to the Dead: Dwight gives Teddy a proper burial in hopes of making amends with the Clelands.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Dwight is introduced bathing in another family's shower, establishing him as a homeless man and introducing his knack for house burglary.
    • The first we see William, he's being reluctantly forced out of the Clelands' limo to welcome back Wade Jr, showing that he's a bit of an outsider in the family.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Clelands, big time. It's part of what makes Dwight beg them to drop the issue without any more deaths, and also the reason they refuse.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While Teddy is adamant that Dwight's father deserved to be killed in retribution for his affair with Wade Sr.'s wife, he concedes that murdering Dwight's mother as well was a step too far.
  • Family Honor: Dwight's parents got murdered to restore the Clelands family honor.
  • Foreshadowing: Ben tells Dwight that speeches will get him killed. In the end, Dwights speech is what gets him shot by William and eventually dying.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Implied in Dwight's case. He has a few rebellious tattoos he obviously got before he became a beach bum. When Ben first sees him, he says that Dwight looks square.
  • Friendly Sniper: Ben Gaffney is an affable seeming old friend to Dwight. He also blows Teddy's head off.
  • Genre Deconstruction: The entire premise of the movie is turning a revenge film on its head by showing the realistic consequences of a revenge film in which an untrained everyman protagonist kills the man who murdered his parents. From accidentally being cut by trying to puncture a tire and having the air pressure fire the knife back at him to struggling to deal with a crossbow wound himself, Dwight is obviously out of his depth every step of the way.
  • Gun Nut: The Clelands are this considering how many guns Dwight took out from their house... and he still missed some hidden under the couch!
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Dwight after cutting his hair and shaving off his Beard of Sorrow.
  • The Hero Dies: It's implied that Dwight will die from his wounds at the end of the film.
  • It's Personal: Dwight and the Clelands both take justice into their own hands due to personal grievances against their families.
  • Jerkass: Save William, all of the Clelands are very unsavory people who seem to have no problem committing murder. Special mention goes to Wade Cleland Sr., who killed Dwight's parents and had his son take the blame for it.
  • Just Between You and Me: Teddy lets Dwight in on the truth because the latter would be dead soon. Too bad for Teddy.
    Teddy: I got the gun, you get the truth.
  • Karma Houdini: Wade Sr. was the real killer of Dwight's parents, but Wade Jr. took the fall for him, letting him die a free, albeit terminally ill man. Teddy taunts Dwight with this information when he's got him at gunpoint.
  • Last Disrespects: After Dwight finds Cleland Sr.'s grave, he goes inside, guzzles glasses of water, and then pisses on the grave stone.
  • Mexican Standoff: Dwight and William have one shortly during the climax but then Dwight convinces William that it's no use because he as more ammo.
  • My God, What Have I Done??: Dwight seems to reconsider killing the rest of the Clelands when he learns that they may not go after his family after all. Cue an angry death threat against Dwight's family from one of the Clelands...
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: Dwight leaves the hospital as soon as he comes to.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Teddy mentions that Wade killed "a few" black people at some point in the past; the slur he uses suggests it was racially motivated.
  • The Reveal: Two major ones.
    • Wade didn't murder Dwight's parents; Cleland Senior did. Wade ended up taking the fall for the crime.
    • William is Dwight's half-brother; a product from the affair between the Cleland matriarch and Dwight's father.
  • Revolvers Are for Amateurs: After Dwight misses two shots from a few yards with his Mini-14, Benny gives him a Rossi Circuit Judge, a revolving carbine that can chamber 410 shells. Dwight is far more accurate with it.
  • Self-Surgery: Deconstructed. After getting shot in the leg with a crossbow, Dwight tries to deal with it himself by shortening its length with a hacksaw before attempting to manually remove it with tweezers. Immediately after he starts pulling, he's howling in pain and bleeding profusely, and he's barely able to get through the front doors of a nearby hospital in time before collapsing.
  • Semper Fi: Ben is a former U.S. Marine as evidenced by a decal on his gun locker. It explains why he’s good with guns.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Wade played the fall guy and went to prison for 10 years so his father, the real murderer, could die a free man.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Dwight used to live in his sister's town but seemingly disappeared after his parents were killed.
  • Stripping Snag: In the opening scene, home invader Dwight has to jump out of the bathroom window but the towel he's wearing gets snagged on a nail, leaving him naked outside briefly.
  • Survival Mantra: While bleeding out on the floor after getting shot, Dwight keeps repeating the phrase "The keys are in the car".
  • Sympathetic Murder Backstory: Zig-zagged: we meet Dwight many years after the murder of his parents, but it's implied that he never got past his trauma (he vanished from the town and eventually became homeless and disaffected), whereas his sister seems to have settled into a healthy life.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Arguably how the events of the movie begin. If Dwight simply talked to the Clelands or gathered more information from other sources, he'd learn that Cleland Senior was the real killer of Dwight's parents, and that he is already dead from cancer.
  • Tragic Mistake: The affair between Dwight's father and the Cleland matriarch.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Before going off to the big showdown with the Clelands, Dwight treats himself to a last meal. We then see him throwing it all up on the roadside.
  • White Shirt of Death: Dwight wears one at the start of the movie when he murders Wade.
  • You Killed My Father: Subverted. Dwight kills Wade for this reason but it turns out Wade was actually a Silent Scapegoat for his father.