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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Seeking to punish a murderer, an unkempt loner cleans up his act in Blue Ruin
A vagrant's vengeance
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At first, it's hard to tell if Dwight is eccentric or flat-out crazy.
At first, it's hard to tell if Dwight is eccentric or flat-out crazy.

It's clear from the outset of Blue Ruin that the protagonist, Dwight (Macon Blair), is a wreck, but we have to observe him for a while before the film discloses what caused this predicament. Thoroughly disheveled, he is a loner who sleeps in the backseat of a bullet-riddled car parked somewhere in the Delaware dunes.

Dwight slips into unoccupied houses to bathe, which is where we first meet him. We witness his wordless, solitary routine, and we have no idea whether he is eccentric, down on his luck or flat-out crazy. Then a sympathetic police officer gives him some news, and he bursts into action like a man with a plan.

We discover that Dwight's parents were murdered when he was a child. The news the cop shares with him is that the man who went to jail for the crime is being released from prison. Dwight cleans up, trades his aluminum cans for cash, and embarks on what proves to be a revenge tale with no end. But avenging his parents' death leads to reciprocation from the murderer's family. Before long, Dwight's sister and her young family aren't safe. An eye for an eye: It's the American way.

Appearing in almost every frame of Blue Ruin, Blair, who starred in writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's first feature, Murder Party, owns this film. Dwight's baby face is much more noticeable after he sheds his derelict appearance. This innocent-looking facade provides a stark contrast to the vicious actions he takes. Sympathetic one moment and disgusting the next, he becomes a complex figure, and the film grows from a simple revenge tale into a character-based drama.

Saulnier wisely doles out the story in small pieces. Like breadcrumbs, these savory nuggets will whet your appetite as much as they sate it.

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