UK Release Date: 13th May 2016
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Macon Blair, Eric Edelstein
Synopsis: Terrified members of a punk band find themselves trapped in a club full of Nazi skinheads when they bear witness to a grisly murder in the club’s green room.
American auteur Jeremy Saulnier made the film word sit up and take notice of him with his brutal thriller Blue Ruin in 2013. In that film, Saulnier conjured up a very different take on the revenge thriller, focusing on the sticky aftermath of violent retribution rather than the catharsis of the vengeance itself. His follow-up, claustrophobic survival horror Green Room, is another unorthodox tale of death and violence. It’s an exhilarating, grotesque ride of a movie that marks Saulnier out as one of modern cinema’s emerging masters of the macabre.
Pat (Anton Yelchin) and his bandmates Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) are a cash-strapped punk band, begging and stealing their way from gig to gig. They take on a show in a neo-Nazi bar and enrage the crowd with an anti-fascist song. Later, they witness a murder in the green room and find themselves locked in the room with club regular Amber (Imogen Poots), trapped next to her friend’s corpse. Panicked bouncer Gabe (Macon Blair) tries to control the situation, but the establishment’s owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart), drives the situation towards a more violent conclusion.
Green Room is an engrossing thriller that benefits greatly from its commitment to depicting violence at its most grotesque. To say that it’s an intense experience would be an understatement – from hideously mangled hands to dog maulings that make Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones look like an absolute pussycat. Saulnier’s work has always focused on the notion that violence has consequences and that it doesn’t end with a clean kill. Green Room is no exception, with brutality that genuinely turns the stomach with its commitment to depicting the icky aftermath of violent acts.
The film is helped by a series of naturalistic, gritty performances from the central punk band. Yelchin and Poots, in particular, have a delightfully uneasy chemistry that eschews the traditional “strangers in peril” dynamic. They are not brought closer together by the carnage and a wonderfully dismissive final line is the perfect conclusion to Saulnier’s gleefully pessimistic vision. These characters don’t need each other; they are simply trying to survive and the performers convey that beautifully with stripped-down, raw work. The fiercely natural performances mesh effectively with the oppressive chaos of the punk soundtrack and the suffocating claustrophobia of the club’s corridors, which are coated with racial epithets and swastikas.
Patrick Stewart, meanwhile, brings the kind of calm, composed gravitas that only a veteran thespian of his ilk can pull off. His violently racist leader surveys and directs the destruction of the movie with a detached and utterly terrifying stillness. Blue Ruin lead Macon Blair, meanwhile, provides a jittery counterpoint to Stewart as the underling desperately trying to control the situation before any more blood needs to be spilled. Blair’s wide-eyed performance is one of the film’s early highlights and helps to create a palpable sense of dread as events begin to spiral out of control.
Green Room benefits greatly from its simplicity, both in premise and execution. There’s hints of thematic depth in that both the punks and the neo-Nazis are wedded to ideologies that have fallen by the wayside, but that is secondary to the intensity of the plotting. Saulnier is interested in delivering thrills more than themes, but those thrills come from a standpoint of realism and consequence rather than the easy escapism of the average action movie. It’s an unbearably tense, gruesome sojourn into a world of unremitting darkness. You won’t be smiling when the credits roll, but you won’t be able to tear your eyes away from the screen.
Pop or Poop?
Jeremy Saulnier hits another home run with Green Room, which is a heart-stopping odyssey of violence set within the inescapable world of a claustrophobic hellhole. The violence comes thick, fast and frenetic, lingering on the grotesque aftermath of the frequent explosions of horrific brutality.
Yelchin and Poots shine as the plucky duo thrown into a world for which they are not in any way prepared and Stewart is devastatingly terrifying as the disconcertingly smooth antagonist.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.