After delivering a solid thriller in 2013’s Blue Ruin, Writer-Director Jeremy Saulnier is back with Green Room. This new film boasts more star power than his last picture, but is it a better movie overall?
The Ain’t Rights are a punk band living the life of a poor band on tour. Nothing epitomizes this more than the fact that they must resort to siphoning gasoline from others’ vehicles in order to fuel their van. The band consists of Pat (Anton Yelchin), Reece (Joe Cole), Sam (Alia Shawkat), and Tiger (Callum Turner). When their planned gig falls through, they are able to secure another, but the problem is, it is at a skinhead bar. The band, desperate for money, agrees to play, but they make the unwise decision of pissing off their audience with their first song, the Dead Kennedys‘ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” The rest of the set goes much better, but the band gets into a pickle as they’re leaving the venue. Pat returns to the green room to retrieve Sam’s forgotten mobile phone and witnesses the aftermath of a murder. The band is quickly hustled into the green room and held captive by Gabe (Macon Blair) and Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), while the skinheads work to clean up the situation. The club’s owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), arrives and tells his people that The Ain’t Rights need to be killed as witnesses to the murder. A standoff results and has gory results for all involved.
That last part is important: Green Room is not for the squeamish. It is a very gory movie in true indie film shock fashion. Despite all the window dressing of who’s involved and such, the film is really based on a classic movie trope: the locked room film. The majority of the picture takes place in the titular green room, except when Darcy and his men are outside rallying and plotting how to get the band out of the room when the tables turn on the skinheads. However, despite the face that the band members stand up for themselves a bit, they also make a lot of stupid decisions throughout the film. Ordinary people not knowing what to do in an extraordinary situation is a theme Saulnier explored in Blue Ruin, where Macon Blair – Gabe in this film – played a completely inept assassin. In that film, though, the character was attempting to do something that, like it or not, required a lot of skill and craftwork. In Green Room, The Ain’t Rights are just dumb people. I mean, if they’d ever seen a thriller in their lives, they would have known how to not behave in this situation. So, while you feel bad for them, you also have to feel like they’ve dug their own hole because of their stupidity. Despite the annoying nature of the band, there is a tone of great tension in this one, making it a hell of a thriller. Again, though, if you don’t like gore, you may want to skip it or cover your eyes.
The cast does a good job here. The Ain’t Rights feel like a real punk band struggling on the road. If Yelchin and Shawkat weren’t in this, I might have believed this was an actual band. Stewart is suitably menacing as Darcy, but he’s played a role like this before in 1997’s Conspiracy Theory, so I’m not sure why some reviewers are saying, “You’ve never seen Patrick Stewart like this.” Yeah, I have. That doesn’t take away from what he does here, but people have short memories, I guess. Blair is good as Gabe, the guy who is clearly not comfortable with what’s happening, and Edelstein also does a great job here as Big Justin. He’s both intimidating and laughable in his role. Special mention also has to go out to Kai Lennox who plays Darcy’s kennel master. He’s a sadistic bastard, but he loves his dogs. Also can’t forget Imogen Poots as Amber, a friend of the girl who gets murdered and then throws in with the band. She’s also the most capable of anyone in the green room.
Overall, Green Room is a taut, gory indie thriller from a promising filmmaker. I think I preferred Blue Ruin, but it doesn’t change the fact that I really enjoyed this one.