Hot from the critical heralding of Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier returns to the world of white trash and movies with colors in their title with Green Room. An ultraviolet fantasy of viscus and vengeance, Green Room is as unapologetic as a Misfits album, as dead-serious as a KKK rally and as boastfully savage as a scalping. Characters find themselves torn to kibble by attack dogs, slashed to crimson ropes by box cutters and blasted in the face at point blank range with shotguns.
Saulnier wastes little time establishing the anarchic world that lo-fi punk band Ain’t Rights has crafted for themselves. They’re anti-establishment mantra and empty wallets keep them ciphering gas on the road from one low-paying gig to the next. A depressing gig at a mostly deserted Mexican restaurant takes them to the brink of calling it quits but local punk enthusiast Reece (Joe Cole) convinces the makeup of the band – Sam (Alia Shawkat), Pat (Anton Yelchin), Tiger (Callum Turner) and Daniel (Mark Webber) – to travel a wee bit out of their way for a “legit” gig. The only hangup is that the venue is a known hangout for white supremacy extremists. But money talks and Ain’t Rights are desperate.
After their show (which they open by covering Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” to a crowd of Nazi punks), a scary skinhead comments on one of their late-set original tunes. He calls it hard. It’s meant as a compliment. Green Room too is hard. It’s meant as a compliment.
An ill-timed coincidence involving a left behind cell phone and a murder victim has things escalate beyond hope within the blink of an eye and Saulnier sinks into the tension like a hot knife through butter. As the band is held captive in the green room, the prospect of their surviving the situation grows increasingly dim.
Before things erupt into eye-coveringly gory territory – which they most certainly do – Saulnier sits on the tension in that room like an elephant on a hot water bottle, allowing the gravity of the situation to seep into the very pores of the band-mates, other captive Amber (a fringe-sporting Imogen Poots) and the audience alike.When Patrick Stewart‘s Darcy arrives on the scene, he molds his commanding, oft-benevolent gravitas into an instrument of cool, collected terror. His expressed calm is naught but the eye of the storm. Stewart masterfully wields Saulnier’s words but, as new pieces of evidence crop into place, there’s never an epiphany moment that defines the character or his emotionless, brutal actions. He’s a solid heavy but somewhat lacking thematic definition.
This complaint could also be lodged at the film at large. While unblinkingly brutal, viciously tactile and wholly reveling in the blood and guts erupting near and far, Green Room ultimately feels a bit insubstantial; as if all the brutality onscreen is little more than violence for violence’s sake. That however does not diminish Saulnier’s masterful command of said violence nor does it shake the fact that he’s trying his damnest to make Macon Blaire a star (he totally deserves it). But if one thing is absolutely assured, it’s that by the end of Green Room, you’ll never look at a box cutter the same way again.
CONCLUSION: Jeremy Saulnier’s grotesquely violent ‘Green Room’ pits a hapless punk band against a group of militant Neo Nazis in almost pornographically gruesome fashion. That there isn’t too much to the film beyond the bloodbath keeps it from broaching true greatness but it’s still a finely tuned, well-acted violent venture for those compelled to see such material.
*Review reprinted from our 2016 Sundance Coverage