I learned a terrible lesson about humanity on September 11, 2001. And it isn’t the one you’re thinking of.
In 2001, I was into punk rock and punk ethics. Punks, generally speaking, espouse pacifism. They are anti-colonialism and anti-militarism.
So I was unpleasantly surprised when the kids on punk IM chats and message boards were calling the 9/11 attacks an act of war. The punks who I thought were my ideological brothers and sisters were clamoring for wars of reprisal.
On that day, my taste for punk soured. And I learned the ugly truth that, deep down, most people believe in the virtue of revenge.
Wrath is definitely a vice, though. Kevin Spacey taught us that it is one of the seven deadly sins. Jesus taught us that “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
While Spacey and Jesus showed us that vengeance is wrong, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier show us that it is hideously destructive.
“Blue Ruin” tells the gripping story of Dwight Evans (Macon Blair). When we meet him, Dwight is a bearded, friendless hobo scraping out a meager existence from the trash left on the boardwalk in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware.
The reason why Saulnier presents his protagonist as a homeless man is because the film demonstrates that even a guy with virtually nothing has a lot to lose by giving into revenge.
The story begins when Dwight learns that the man who killed his parents is about to be released from prison. Since he has nothing better to do, Dwight promptly drives down to Virginia, tracks down the killer, and stabs him to death in a bar bathroom.
Problem solved. Right is wronged. Happy ending. Justice is done.
Not exactly. Dwight let dumb vengeance guide him and didn’t think it through. He failed to consider that the slain killer has brothers. And he didn’t take into account that his sister and her two little girls live in the area. Whoops.
“Blue Ruin” is no more violent than the average action movie or cable TV show, but the death scenes feel more real and powerful than I’m used to.
And “Blue Ruin” is the most suspenseful film than I’ve seen in a long time. I truly didn’t know what was going to happen to poor Dwight. I just knew it was going to be much more horrible than if he had simply done the right thing and turned the other cheek.
The consequences of giving into wrath aren’t always as disastrous as the Iraq War, but they are always undesirable. And revenge is always wrong.