Layering humor into violent situations is a trademark of both multiplex and American indie movies, and it’s frequently an empty gesture—a hipster wink to the audience, a cheapening of anything like real engagement with the material. However: While fugitive humor emerges in regular intervals in the bloody, micro-budget revenge picture Blue Ruin, this is something different. The jokes are funny, for one thing, but they also serve a purpose. If plenty of movies (and novels and plays) preach lessons on the negative toll of revenge, this one goes straight for revenge-as-absurdity. Why wouldn’t we laugh at the subject?
Dwight (the heroic Macon Blair) lives in a disintegrating blue car by the seashore. He receives disturbing news: The man convicted of killing Dwight’s parents is being released from prison. This sets in motion Dwight’s revenge, a plan so haphazard and freely improvised that at times it approximates the end-over-end momentum of a Road Runner cartoon.