Written by: Macon Blair
Directed by: Macon Blair
Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Jane Levy
After her home is burglarized, easily exploited Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) learns to assert herself as she tracks the thieves with her martial arts loving neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood).
First time director Macon Blair delivers a quirky and dark story about a woman that just can't take it anymore. When her house is robbed, she refuses to be pushed around any longer. A sense of despair pervades the movie as Ruth continually runs into a lack of help and compassion, but even that is punctuated with humorous and absurd moments.
The ending is completely wild, and the movie frequently goes out of it's way to exploit gore, but Ruth is a stand out, engendering sympathy as a vigilante that quickly finds herself out of her depth.
Ruth is frequently disregarded and ignored. Part of that is her inability to assert herself. Even in line at the grocery store, she backs away letting someone else go in front of her. Lynskey plays the part perfectly.
When her house is broken into the detectives don't even seem to care so she begins her own investigation. She wants repercussions for the robbery as this crosses the line. They broke into her house and violated her space. The police are disinterested, though the movie does shows us the detective's side of it. There are much worse crimes that they must investigate and it's easy for her case to fall through the cracks which is precisely why she acts. Though they tell her they won't act and she shouldn't, which of course she's compelled to play a vigilante.
She enlists the help neighbor of her neighbor. Tony is straight out of the eighties, though his ability in martial arts in no way matches his enthusiasm. Wood's costume and mannerisms alone are funny enough that he could coast through this movie, but he does more than that. Together they track her stolen items to a consignment shop where they run into the thieves, but are unable to apprehend them.
The movie doesn't take any shortcuts to further the plot. Ruth follows the clues and they logically lead her to the group of criminals. She's doing what she feels she must because no one else will help her. She and Tony get a breakfast cereal police badge and continue their investigation.
They end up in a wealthy family's house where the big shootout later occurs. The home's own has a bodyguard who clears each room as Ruth and Tony talk to the owner. Throughout the discussion we hear the bodyguard listing a room and then shouting "Clear!" It goes on for far too long, heightening the humor and absurdity.
That bus. I can't say anymore without spoiling.
Writer and director Macon Blair has been in a few Jeremy Saulnier movies, Blue Ruin (read my review) and Green Room (read my review). I don't want to short Blair by comparing him to Saulnier, but their movies would fall into a similar genre, though this movie plays up the humor and absurdity more. This ramps up from quirky yet depressing to violent and graphic. It gets ridiculous and deadly with plenty of blood and gore, going out of it's way to gross you out.
Blair pushes timid Ruth one step too far and watches her react. We feel sympathy for her because we know what that's like. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't get you anywhere. She's resourceful and catches the bad guys, but didn't consider that the bad guys may be hardened criminals.