Director Jeremy Saulnier has some fun with revenge-thriller clichés and creates a few twists of his own with Blue Ruin, a darkly funny, sometimes quite disturbing showcase for actor Macon Blair. Blair plays Dwight, a homeless man that we first see living a meager life in Delaware. He takes baths in other people's houses, gets his meals from trash bags, and lives in his car. In its opening moments, Blue Ruin seems as if it will just be an interesting case study of a dude trying to survive on soda bottles and discarded hamburgers. Then, just about five minutes into the movie, a policewoman knocks on Dwight's car window. No, Dwight isn't getting hauled in for vagrancy. It turns out the law is just doing their duty by informing him that the man who allegedly killed his parents is being released early from prison. This sets into motion a revenge story like no other, where a hairy homeless guy returns to his childhood home and makes a bunch of people wish they had different last names. Saulnier does a lot with a small budget, shooting a solid looking movie with some pretty heavy gore effects. No, the movie isn't wall-to-wall bloodlettings, but the moments when the blood sprays are quite impactful. There's one particular moment when somebody takes a bullet to the jaw that I won't soon forget. With Dwight, Blair gives us an original, vengeful character to go alongside the likes of Uma Thurman's Bride in the Kill Bill movies and Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs. He's unforgettable, and just a little heartbreaking in the end. (Available for rent on VOD, iTunes and Amazon.com during a limited theatrical run.)
1 The Other WomanLeslie Mann is one of my favorite comic actresses, and I've been waiting for her to get that one project that would put her over the top as one of Hollywood's premiere go-to actresses. I thought This is 40 would do the trick but, as it turns out, I was probably the only guy in the world who thought that was a good movie. Now comes The Other Woman, a film that casts her as a wimpy victim of Mark, a cheating husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). She winds up befriending Carly, his mistress (Cameron Diaz), and she becomes a stronger, independent person as the film progresses. Whatever. Director Nick Cassavetes is trying to do a straight comedy here, and things work well enough for at least half of the movie. Mann is at her pathetic best when stalking Diaz, crying on her doorstep with Boston Market food in hand as a peace offering, and a big Great Dane in tow. I admit to enjoying this movie a little in its early stages, thinking it might be the showcase Mann deserved. Then, The Other Woman crashes into a creative wall, sending its stars through the narrative windshield and the movie into stupidity oblivion. I'm not exactly sure of the precise moment when this one starts to go off the rails. Maybe it's when yet another mistress, played by Kate Upton, enters the scene, and the women start working together to torture and destroy the cheater. Now, mind you, I am all for a movie where a cheater gets his comeuppance. However, I'm not actually up for a movie where one of the revenge seekers is played by the beautiful but bland Kate Upton. What starts as a relatively amusing comedy devolves into ugly, messy business that is not in the least bit entertaining.