Green Room (2016)
In a nutshell, an American punk band, The Ain’t Rights, are on tour. After a booking falls through, the nearly-broke band accepts a gig just outside of Portland, OR, so they can earn gas money to continue on their journey. The catch? The bar they are booked at turns out to be a neo-Nazi skinhead club. Yikes.
After their set, they are paid and gather their gear to leave. One of the band members, “Sam” (Alia Shawkat), forgets her cell phone in the green room of the club. Bandmate “Pat” (Anton Yelchin) offers to retrieve it for her. Upon entering, he finds a dead girl lying on the floor, and a group of skinheads around her. The band is then isolated and held at bay by club employees. The story escalates quickly—and violently—from there.
Imogen Poots plays Amber, a punk rocker who is witness to the murder. Poots is radiant in the role. She is brash and ballsy and, frankly, every bit as cold-blooded as the character demands her to be. I must congratulate writer/director Jeremy Saulnier for crafting a meaty, bold role for her. So often female leads in pictures need “saved” by a heroic male. (Frankly, everyone needs to be saved from the savage neo-Nazis in this film. Just wait until you see it.) Saulnier, however, wrote Amber in an aggressive and decisive manner that features her moxie and places her in a key role of leadership in the narrative.
Patrick Stewart. Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, he is not in this film. Stewart plays Darcy, the owner of the club. He is called by club employee/skinhead-in-training (Macon Blair) after the band is trapped in the green room. Stewart is bone-chilling in this role. He is both calculating and vicious, with nary a trace of the kind warmth he has shown in, say, his portrayals of Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise. Stewart is a top-shelf actor and he delivers big with this performance.
The Film Does Not Blink
This is a gory movie. Shotgun blasts to the head. Snapped elbows. Gaping machete wounds. Green Room is a genre picture that does not shy away from what it came to the dance to do. It has the excruciating tension of a well-crafted thriller combined with the bloodthirsty savagery of an Italian horror film. In fact, it took brutality to levels that I wish Eli Roth’s Green Inferno would have been allowed to explore. And this is a good thing. A very good thing. So many writers, directors, and distribution companies back off of extremes for numerous reasons. However, Green Room is evidence that there is room for edgier material as long as it is supported by solid direction, capable acting, and a quality script.
The key to the success of the picture is the tension throughout. It is thick and swampy. It plays in a gorgeous symphony with the elevated violence onscreen. And once that tension sets it, it does not let up until the end of the picture. The beautifully constructed anxiety is in concordance with the ruthlessness of the onscreen bloodshed. Aspiring filmmakers take note, it’s the tension AND the brutality that make this film work so well. Shortcuts will not produce a similar result.
Jeremy Saulnier clearly has a history of involvement in the punk music scene. I grew up on the Dead Boys, Minor Threat, and Black Flag. I know what the hot, sweaty rage of punk rock is like. The band felt real. The club felt real. The overall tone—the frantic anxiety—of a punk show felt very real. Punk is an easy thing to get wrong. It has so many branches that can be inadvertently misinterpreted or misconstrued. Saulnier knew what he was talking about and nailed it. That authenticity is important. It provided a solid foundation for the rest of the picture. Get that wrong, and the whole thing starts on a bad note.
This is a seriously kickass movie.
Green Room is anxious. It’s ferocious. It does not flinch. It does not hold back. It does not look away. Fans of horror, thrillers, or just well-made movies are gonna love it. It covers ground ranging from American History X to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Funny aside, I became so absorbed in it that when I got up to leave I realized that I hadn’t touched my soda or popcorn. That is just about the most sincere compliment that I can give a movie.
Green Room is a must-see film.
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