Dwight (Macon Blair) has been living in his close to delapitated car for a while now, since a personal tragedy sent him off the rails. He is forced to scavenge food, breaks into rented accomodation to use the facilities and is not averse to making a run for it mid-bath if the owners return unexpectedly, and sleeps in the vehicle by the beach, the sea sufficing for a bathroom should all else fail. But this is not quite the aimless life it appears to be, as Dwight is biding his time for a shot at getting his own back at those who have placed him in this difficult position, and he twigs that there could be a chance he has been waiting for when he hears a certain someone is getting out of prison, a certain someone he has no compunction about murdering...
As genre movies wore on, there seemed at many glances to be less and less to do with them that had not been done before, so when an item like Blue Ruin happened along, something that took a fresh take on a hackneyed trope of the one man revenge plot, it was lauded for injecting new blood into the old veins of the style. Whether it was quite as original as many would have it was a moot point, it was a shade overpraised as director and screenwriter Jeremy Saulnier was happy to admit he was much influenced by the entertainment of his youth, having started out on his path to direction by making home movies, action spoofs with his friends. One of those friends was Macon Blair, and they stayed loyal to one another when it came to crafting a more professional work.
That was Murder Party, a spiky horror with black humour running through it that impressed some but didn't open doors in the industry as they would have wanted, but they perservered and lo! Blue Ruin was the result, as was international praise as it quickly became one of the must-see cult movies of 2014; merely by dialing back all the histrionics and obvious clichés of the vengeance flick they had managed a diversion that didn't cast a Charles Bronson taking to the streets to blow away the scum, but a meek, bumbling loser who has found his sole purpose in life is to ensure the bad guys who have devastated his family get what's coming to them. In this case it's a sensitive soul going against his social conditioning to be law-abiding to mete out justice as he sees fit.
The trouble with that is, and it very nearly becomes a running joke if you have the stomach for bleak laughs, Dwight is not exactly the most accomplished hitman around and indeed every time he attempts to play the badass counter to his mild personality he manages to make a mess of things. Take the first time we see him square off against the man who he thinks has killed his parents, Dwight hides in a restroom cubicle, knife in hand, and bursts out of it to stab his target in the neck. Well, he manages to kill the guy as was his intent, but he also ends up covered in blood and loses his car keys into the bargain, meaning he must make good his escape by stealing a limo. A limo that he has just cut open his hand puncturing a front tyre of, and in addition has someone sitting in the back of it.
You get the idea, Dwight is not the most professional when it comes to carrying out his personal missions, and Blair's essential vulnerability as a screen persona, one of the reasons the story plays out with this particular character, renders him just unlikely enough to succeed as an angel of death in a way that is valid in achieving the filmmakers' goals: what if someone with no taste for violence was forced into that ghastly lifestyle by circumstances or the machinations of actual evildoers who have no qualms about carrying out acts Dwight has no talent for since they are alien to his demeanour? By purposefully not casting some musclebound he-man, Saulnier did bring a different angle on the genre, maybe not as new if you'd seen the strain of revenge movies which had female protagonists, but unusual enough since there was no guarantee he would succeed given his amateurism. With fine support from the likes of Devin Ratray as one of those handy chaps with access to firearms, former Brady Bunch Jan Eve Plumb as a villain, and one-scene-stealer Kevin Kolack in the back of the car, Blue Ruin wasn't bad at all.