Macon Blair’s directorial debut poses these questions and deftly manages to be both hilarious and disgustingly bloody without skipping a beat.
Lynskey plays Ruth Kimke, a nurse who likes her Coors, does her job, and hates dogs pooping on her lawn. This is her daily routine before she finds her home broken into and her quiet life upended. Through amateur vigilantism and a weak backbone she seeks retribution for her disruption aided by her neighbour Tony (Elijah Wood) whose rat tail and penchant for ninja stars looks to make her journey more peculiar than you could ever hope for.
It is in the awkward stumbles where the story and characters truly get to flesh out into their own beasts, making empathizing for even the worst characters possible by their uniqueness. Lynskey is truly fantastic as the introverted Ruth, characterized by her need for people to just get along with each other and make the world a better place. It is admirable that the film sides with her likeness, along with dipping into genre touchstones every now and then to crank up the tension in blood curdling ways.
The ability for the director to switch between genres with such capability is reminiscent of Blair’s longtime collaborator and friend Jeremy Saulnier (the director behind last year’s spectacular Green Room) in which characters lives can be cut off at the drop of a shell casing. Yet, Blair’s respect for the characters and lighter handling of the tone balance more with a bloody comedy rather than an all-out thriller. It is fun getting to know the intricacies of these characters as they head further into dangerous territory.
As compelling as each of the characters are, the pacing does suffer with a middle portion of the film, feeling slightly inconsequential but still lending to great character development. With such strong character work, writing and solid directing it comes as no surprise that it is backed by a fantastic soundtrack that, oddly enough, bounces from melancholic country to synth-pulsing vibrations that seem to further reflect the boundless eccentricities found in Ruth and Tony. The year 2017 is proving to be a continuation of the growing tend of smarter, better, more human genre films that hopefully keeps turning out such pleasures to watch.