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What Does “Blue Ruin” Say About Guns in America?

When Blue Ruin (2015) premiered at Cannes, the largely European audience loved the gritty revenge thriller but was completely stunned at all the firearms in the film. Surely the movie was satirizing America’s out-of-control gun culture.

The French weren’t the only ones who detected an anti-gun message. Several U.S. film critics also assumed the movie was pro-gun control, a backwoods crime drama condemning Americans’ easy access to deadly weapons. However, when Blue Ruin made its way to Texas, Lone Star citizens had no problems with the number of guns or the alleged political message. In fact, many politically conservative moviegoers appreciated the film’s firearm-savvy humor. Were they completely missing the point, or were certain cinephiles looking for a message that just wasn’t there?

The answer to both questions is…yes and no.

When writing the original draft of Blue Ruin, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier actually included several jabs at the American gun scene. Only when he rewrote the script, Saulnier deiced to do away with most of the anti-firearm comments. While he did keep one quick line that takes aim at Virginia’s incredibly relaxed gun laws, Saulnier intentionally edited out most of his political commentary. Why? Well, according to the director, he wasn’t really trying to create a “message movie.”

Of course, Blue Ruin is such a sly film that audiences can interpret the movie in any number of ways. The ease with which Dwight and the Clelands get their hands on weapons leads directly to several bloody shoot-outs. On the flip side, there are several instances where owning a gun saves the hero from imminent death. It’s easy to see why liberals and conservatives could claim this movie as their own firearm manifesto. In fact, that political ambiguity is 100% intentional.

When Saulnier wrote Blue Ruin, he wasn’t interested in preaching a sermon. Instead, he was more concerned with starting conversations. If the movie seems conflicted, that’s exactly how Saulnier likes it. In fact, the director is kind of torn himself when it comes to firearms. According to Saulnier, he really enjoys shooting a few rounds, but even so, he’s still a supporter of gun control. He’s a lot like Blue Ruin in that respect, divided on an incredibly contentious issue. Actually, that sounds a lot like the U.S. itself.