Green Room Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by A24 Films
Written and Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
2015, 95 minutes, Rated R
Released theatrically on April 29th, 2016
Anton Yelchin as Pat
Imogen Poots as Amber
Joe Cole as Reece
Alia Shawkat as Sam
Patrick Stewart as Darcy
Those of you that read my reviews know I love going into a film knowing as minimal as possible. I try not to give too much away in the reviews I write, and rather focus on some positive and/or negative aspects without spoiling, marginally. Going into Jeremy Saulnier’s latest film, Green Room, all I knew was a punk rock band gets involved with a shady concert venue owner, portrayed by Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart. For some reason, I expected something along the lines of “torture porn,” and although there is some sheer fucking brutality, I’m extremely pleased to inform that the movie is NOT Saw XII. Gore? For sure! Through no-bullshit swift pacing, Saulnier captures high tension, fear, dread and insanity in his latest survival-thriller splatter film.
The Ain't Rights are a punk band traveling the northwest roads by siphoning gas when broke, which seems to be most of the time. The last gig on their tour is cancelled, but the guy who contracts the gig has a cousin with a venue for them to play at, though he advises about the scene’s harsh environment without full clarity. The place is a neo-Nazi punk bar, owned and operated by Darcy (Patrick Stewart), an intelligent and ruthless dictator. There is a confrontation after the band’s set, and all hell breaks loose from then until the end of the film. Green Room is a non-stop persistence of the band trying to survive the strategic hell Darcy and his horde of assbags instill on the group.
As I mentioned, I expected a Saw knockoff full of useless imagery of death and dismemberment. On the contrary, the film has way more substance than any Saw sequel, and enough carnage to please all the slaughter-heads out there drooling for blood. The choice of weaponry by the skinhead squad is simple yet awfully interesting. Darcy exclaims “blades and fangs, no guns” to instruct how his disciples should inflict damage. The practical effects team did an amazing job capturing the gore-factor here, including a vicious disemboweling.
There are a few quirks I do have to point out. The Ain’t Rights are not a part of social media, which does not seem real in 2016. But I guess they are trying to embody the original essence of punk rock, so I can buy them not signing up for Facebook or Twitter. But what about Bandcamp, guys? Where were they all from? Where are their families? Who are they? We know they're a punk rock band. Another point: rarely do we see anyone's feelings about any deaths, and the film barely touches on any existential questions. We are in 24 hours of perdition and it’s funny; the group ends up showing their true punk colors with a running gag of “who’s your island band.” It reminds me of the overarching meaning of SLC Punk.
There are also some scenes which could have been cut or made more significant. For example, without spoiling, there is a duo sitting, banged up to all hell and they're calmly chatting about some nonsense, while they’re on the cusp of death. Then one of the characters makes a speech, which is totally demotivating and oddly placed. Maybe Saulnier was trying to add more depth to the movie that I missed, but ultimately it is a wrong time, wrong place kinda thang. Green Room is a forthright motion to the finish line, with no real development of characters, other than lightly fleshing out the band in the first act. Also, we never visit why the antagonist characters, specifically Darcy, chooses his ideals and path of life. Maybe the guy had mommy issues? Who knows.
The main problem with Green Room is the casting choice of Anton Yelchin as the main protagonist and our nice-guy-punker-turned-hero, Pat. I always see the kid from the short-lived Showtime series, Huff. I can’t help it, but he will always be that nerdy, annoying kid and the character could’ve been better cast. He might be a fine actor otherwise, but he just doesn’t have punk rock “manifesto.” He looks like one of those suburb kids who try to be punk rock by going on a spending spree in Hot Topic. He reminds me of a young, constipated Clint Eastwood wannabe. It just doesn’t work. Sorry, Anton. Nothing personal.
The cat-and-mouse game is the key to the film, and you get nothing more than a 95-minute, balls-to-the-wall survival flick. As far as genre, is it a thriller or horror; the line is fine. Regardless, this is one of the best to come out of 2016. It’s easy for me to nitpick, but it’s been almost a month since I’ve seen Green Room and it’s been constantly bouncing around my brain. The marketing campaign is just as effective as the rave reviews and praise from the almighty word of mouth. Definitely check out Green Room for a bloody thrill-ride, and also Saulnier’s last effort, Blue Ruin. It was phenomenal, better than Green Room; if you haven’t seen it, make that a priority if you are waiting for Green Room to be released on VOD or Blu-ray. Either way, both movies are fantastic.