I knew that Patrick Stewart was going to play the heavy in Green Room, but other than that I didn’t know quite what to expect from this new horror flick. My first surprise was that despite some pretty gruesome violence the movie probably fits into the suspense/thriller genre better than the horror/slasher mold (a plus in my book.)
The second shocker is that Patrick Stewart’s appearance is probably the least intriguing thing about this film, and I say this not to make light of the Star Trek icon’s very good against-type performance as a diabolical white supremacist, but to emphasize the high quality of this excellent movie.
“The Ain’t Rights” (a perfect punk band name) are a struggling punk rock quartet living out of a van and touring the dark and damp Pacific Northwest. The group consists of the (appropriately) green-haired Tiger (Callum Turner), the unexpectedly badass Reece (Joe Cole), the down-to-Earth Pat (Anton Yelchin, whom you’ll recognize as Chekov from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films), and the female member of the band, Sam (Alia Shawkat).
Through an unexpected series of poorly-paid appearances the band ends up uncomfortably playing in the middle-of-nowhere to a group of neo-Nazi skinheads and white supremacists. The gig doesn’t go as bad as it could have, but when Sam forgets her phone in the Green Room things end up going worse than they could ever have imagined.
The four bandmates, together with a local girl, Amber (Imogen Poots), end up trapped in the room in a battle of wits with the redneck evildoers just outside the door. Most of the action takes place inside of the Green Room and it is some of the most intense drama I’ve witnessed on a movie screen in quite some time.
As mentioned, Stewart plays the leader of the supremacist gang, Darcy Banker, who plays a deadly chess game with the musicians, trying to slay them but make it appear that his family in the clear – and you get the feeling that, unlike the kids in the room, this isn’t his first racist rodeo.
If you dig thrash metal and hardcore punk music then you have an added bonus as there is plenty of it in this film. I’m not a fan, although I did enjoy Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Sinister Purpose,” which plays over the end credits, and, I appreciated that the tune is from their Green River album – natch!
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, who did the equally awesome and unorthodox 2013 film, Blue Ruin, once again delivers a great piece of filmmaking that works outside of the cinematic box (or room – as it were.) His writing is smart, fun and realistic, even when his characters are under intense pressure, and his cast sets a high mark for acting in this genre. The film also has a perfect ending.
Despite my ever-increasing distaste of gratuitous gore, I still loved this movie as a Hitchcockian-styled thriller. I do have one concern with the premise though in that the The Ain’t Rights are playing to a huge crowd of white supremacists in the middle of an isolated Oregon forest during the middle of the day – and it’s especially the ‘middle of the day’ part that seemed a little odd to me (a minor complaint.)
Green Room is an edge-of-your-seat suspense flick and survival tale with realistic drama, unsettling violence and just the right sprinkling of humor and heart. It left me looking forward to director Jeremy Saulnier’s next effort and might just go see this one again in the meantime. Grade: 8.5/10
Photos © 2016 A24 Films
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