Dwight Evans, a beach vagrant, lives out of his car and scavenges for food and money. A policewoman tells him that Wade Cleland, the man who murdered Dwight's parents, is to be released from prison. Dwight returns to his hometown in Virginia and watches the Clelands collect Wade from prison. Despite failing to steal a gun, Dwight follows Wade to a club restroom and, after a fight, fatally stabs him. Realizing he dropped his car keys in the club, Dwight steals the Clelands' limousine; as he drives away, he discovers a teenage boy, William Cleland, in the back and lets him go.
After cleaning himself up, Dwight visits his sister, Sam, for the first time in years and tells her he has killed Wade. Sam is shocked but glad. As the killing has gone unreported on the news, Dwight surmises that the Clelands have decided to seek revenge without police involvement. Sam flees her home with her daughters and Dwight waits in the house for the Clelands' attack. The Clelands arrive in the car Dwight left outside the club. Dwight escapes the attackers and runs over one of the Clelands, Teddy, in his car; he places the unconscious Teddy in the trunk. Before Dwight drives away, one of the attackers shoots him in the thigh with a crossbow.
After attempting surgery on himself, Dwight has the wound treated at a hospital and returns to Sam's house to clean up the mess. He tracks down an old high school friend, Ben, who lends him a rifle. On Ben's land, Dwight interrogates Teddy at gunpoint. Teddy tells him that Wade was not his father's killer; it was Wade's now-deceased father, in revenge for Dwight's father having an affair with Wade Sr.'s wife. Teddy wrestles Dwight's rifle from him, but Ben shoots him dead from a concealed position. To keep Ben from further involvement, Dwight removes the battery from Ben's car.
Dwight goes to the Cleland house and finds it empty. He searches it for guns, dumps them in a lake, and waits to ambush the Clelands. He leaves a message on the house answering machine asking them to leave Sam out of the dispute. Kris Cleland and her remaining children, Hope and Carl, return and listen to Dwight's message; when it becomes clear that the Clelands intend to kill Sam, Dwight shoots Carl to death and holds up the women. William enters through another door and shoots Dwight with a shotgun. Dwight, severely wounded, asks William to leave with his car and tells him they are half-brothers. After William leaves, Hope attempts to attack Dwight; Kris Cleland reaches for a TEC-9 hidden under a recliner and fires at Dwight, but she misses and instead kills Hope. Dwight kills Kris but is shot. A postcard Dwight sent days earlier arrives at Sam's house.Macon Blair as Dwight Evans
Devin Ratray as Ben Gaffney
Amy Hargreaves as Sam Evans
Kevin Kolack as Teddy Cleland
Eve Plumb as Kris Cleland
David W. Thompson as William
Brent Werzner as Carl Cleland
Stacy Rock as Hope Cleland
Sidné Anderson as Officer Eddy
Blair and Saulnier had been making movies together growing up, and hoped to make a living out of it; however, as they both became older with families, they realized that that might not happen. After the disappointing reception of their horror comedy Murder Party, the two wanted to make one last film together with Saulnier saying, "We embraced the fact that we had to wrap up this childhood arc—this insane fantasy of wanting to be filmmakers—and just make a film that was right and true." The concept of a revenge story appealed to Saulnier, who noted that it "was just about grounding the film in a very mundane scenario that needed so little exposition.", The film's plot also serves as a critique for Saulnier of such movies that he enjoyed growing up, noting in particular that several violent crimes in the early years of the 2010s "made me miserable" adding that "I couldn't do a film that was akin to those awesome genre spectacles of my youth" in said climate.
The film was financed with help from a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012 asking for $35,000 as well as money from Saulneir's own savings. Saulnier initially did not want to use the crowd funding platform as he felt conflicted about asking for help, specifically that donors could not invest in the back end through the site. However, he eventually realized that the positive outweighed the negative. Saulnier noted that when making the pitch video for the campaign "I faced my worst nightmare" as he was camera shy.
Blue Ruin opened in 7 theaters in North America and earned $32,608 in its opening weekend averaging $4,658 per theater and ranking #52 at the box office. The film ultimately earned $258,384 domestically and $719,241 internationally for a total of $977,625. The film then was given a VOD release on April 25, 2014. followed by a home video release on July 22, 2014.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 96% of 134 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 8 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Smart, stripped-down, and thrillingly grim, Blue Ruin proves that a well-told revenge story can still leave its audience on the edge of their seat." The film also has a score of 77 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Blue Ruin was listed on many critics' top ten lists.1st – Chase Whale, Twitch Film
1st – Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly
2nd – William Goss, Austin Chronicle
5th – Marc Doyle, Metacritic
7th – James Rocchi, The Wrap
8th – Russ Fischer, Slash Film
8th – A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
8th – Haleigh Foutch, Collider.com
10th – Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve