Saw Blue Ruin at the weekend: a modern Noir Masterpiece sez here. One of The Guardian’s Films of the Year 2014, so up there with Leviathan and Under the Skin and 5* according to Rotten Tomatoes.
It was okay. Three stars max.
Its about a nerd in a difficult situation. He is a beach-bum living in his car on the beach in Connecticut or somewhere and he finds out that the murderer who killed his parents is about to be released from prison. He ups-sticks, finds the murderer, kills him and is then chased around the North-east states by the murderer’s family.
What do we want and expect from a modern Noir film? Classically of course, there is a tough-guy hero and a Femme Fatale who leads him astray plus a charming but powerful villain. Out of the Past, with Robert Mitchum is the most-quoted example.
What do I want from a Noir film? Don’t care about the Femme Fatale; don’t actually care that much about how the characters work and definitely don’t need a tough-guy hero. The most important thing to me is the plot and that there are no plot-holes. I can forgive small plot-holes, for example; in Blue Ruin the nerd drops his car keys; later he recovers them but we don’t see how he does that. Big plot-holes and Out of the Past is full of them, will turn me off regardless of how sharp, witty and clever the script is, or convincing the actors are.
Blue Ruin is slow-burning. Good.
The hero is a Nerd. Good. But a resourceful Nerd. Good again. He kills the bad-guy with a kitchen knife he finds lying on the table. Good again, the less guns the better. No police; good. Then two things happen; the pace slackens. I’m all for slow-burning plots but once you have got it rolling downhill, don’t put your foot on the brake or you will lose your audience. Secondly, he gets a gun. I wouldn’t have done that. I wholly accept that trying to make a slow-burning story within the confines of a ninety-minute film means that sooner or later, you need to bring things to an abrupt end. Guns do that but it would have been worthwhile trying to think up another ending. In Riccarton Junction, my version of the slow-burning Noir, the protagonists are nerds; there are no guns. And no police. But Riccarton Junction is deeper than Blue Ruin; there are other themes that not only round-out the story but give dimension to the characters. None of the characters in Blue Ruin are three dimensional, not even the Nerd.
Okay, here is a list of ten Noir films I love:
Postman Always Rings Twice
Lucky Number Slevin
One missing, because I’m not 100% sure Blade Runner is Noir. Terminator could be Noir and there is that famous street scene where the club sign Tech Noir can be seen, although most reviewers seem to regard it as Science Fiction. There is an absolutely fabulous book about Terminator by Sean French, by the way that has consistent 5* reviews on Amazon; off-topic, I suppose but it is quite short and definitely worth your time.
End of post about Blue Ruin.