Green Room : Movie Review
Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said: “Violence begets violence”. While this is certainly true, sometimes violence is a necessity in order to ensure one’s survival. As is the case with Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room which finds a punk rock band literally fighting for their lives after they’re enclosed in a single room by a bloodthirsty group of neo-Nazi skinheads. Saulnier initially turned heads with his 2013 revenge thriller Blue Ruin. That micro-budgeted indie impressed many, including yours truly, with how deftly the young filmmaker was able to showcase the depths of man’s thirst for vengeance. Armed with a bigger budget this time around, Saulnier assembles an impressive cast of up and coming actors like Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots as well his Blue Ruin holdover Macon Blair. It also features Patrick Stewart flexing his villainous muscles about as far as they can possibly go.
Rock and Roll has long had a testy relationship with the skinhead movement dating back to early days of Black Sabbath when Ozzy Osbourne sang about how fairies wore boots. A decade or so later, the U.K. Punk Rock explosion invited a veritable smorgasbord of Doc Martin-wearing, tightly-coiffed neo-Nazis that no doubt helped to accelerate that genre’s premature demise. The rise of the American hardcore movement in the early 1980s lead to some somewhat awkward and well documented interactions between bands like Blag Flag and several other goose-stepping, gun-totting degenerates. Green Room takes this decades old tension and cranks it to 11 when Anton Yelchin’s band steps onto the stage in a rural dive bar owned and operated by a rowdy and violent bunch of skinheads. After the band inadvertently witnesses a murder the game is on as they soon become prey for the Patrick Stewart-lead gang of white supremacists. What ensues is a pulse pounding thrill ride with plenty of interesting twists and turns along the way. The only thing you really know for sure is that there’s going to be blood. The real question is how much blood? Well, enough to completely disgust the more squeamish audience member but also more than enough to make most horror aficionados (such as myself) very happy.
Whereas the violence in Blue Ruin was of a primarily “eye for an eye” nature, the violence in Green Room is much more cat and mouse if the cat shaved his head and armed himself to the teeth and if the mouse wore a Dead Kennedys t-shirt. The often shocking displays of violence in Green Room are likely to turn off a lot of audience members and understandably so. The film is certainly not for the faint at heart but I’ve long been a firm supporter and believer of realistic violence in cinema because after all, we’re surrounded by violence in one way or another each and every day. The number 1 job for a filmmaker is to seek the truth and there’s a lot of truth in violence whether you like it or not.
Green Room is also a proudly female empowering film as Imogen Poots’ character Amber turns out to be not only the most resourceful character in the film but also perhaps the toughest character both physically and mentally. Her wiliness and never say die attitude ends up becoming a major thorn in Patrick Stewart’s side over the course of the film. Speaking of Stewart, Saulnier gives him ample opportunity to go broad with his performance but Stewart instead wisely chooses to take a colder, more methodical approach for his take on the villainous character Darcy. Across the board, the performances are all terrific. My only real quibbles with the film are relatively minor such as the odd and forgivable lapses in logic here and there as well as a plot that’s sometimes a little too complex for its own good.
With all of that being said, Green Room obviously has a very targeted, niche audience and you can certainly say that the film caters to me as a fan of both punk rock as well as horror. I’d go as far as to say that the film is perhaps the most satisfying amalgamation of punk and horror since the original Return of the Living Dead in 1985. It features protagonists who’s proudly DIY approach to life eventually translates to a DIY approach to survival. Above all though, It’s a real blessing for any film enthusiast starving for some originality and counterprogramming amidst an endless sea of spandex, testosterone and bulging biceps.