Review: ‘Green Room’


It might be a ‘Green Room’ but I’m ‘Seeing Red’

At the beginning of Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room (2015), Anton Yelchin (Fright Night, Star Trek, Only Lovers Left Alive) and his band give a radio interview while flopped out on freelance journalist’s couch. He goes on a perfect rant about the sincerity of live music in the digital age and how music has lost its poignancy. In many ways this seems to be what Saulnier’s Green Room strives for. Green Room is a film that literally and figuratively takes no prisoners, revealing sincere, believable characters that just as quickly are torn to shreds, caught in brutal, senseless and horrific violence.

The fact that Saulnier does this while helming a mixed bag of a cast makes the film that much more enjoyable and impressive. The cast is made up of Hollywood stars (Yelchin, Mark Webber from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development) which are complimented by British newcomers (Imogen Poots from Fright Night and Joe Cole from Peaky Blinders) and of course Patrick Stewart who plays a devious and sophisticated skinhead mastermind. Macon Blair, the lead from Saulnier’s two previous features (Murder Party and Blue Ruin), is thrown into the mix and holds his own as a dumbfounded bar manager and uninitiated skinhead. Saulnier plays up the strengths of these actors, which at times makes the film funny, tense and brooding.

The film is centered on the Ain’t Rights, a punk band barley making ends meet and attempting to wrap up an American tour. Sporting Minor Threat and Dead Kennedys shirts they get a last minute gig at a skinhead bar promising decent money, something the band is in desperate need of. After their set (that hilariously starts with a cover of

Nazi Punks Fuck Off

by The Dead Kennedys), they are quickly told to vacate the premises, but Sam (Shawkat) has forgotten her phone in the band lounge, or ‘green room’, and Pat (Yelchin) returns to not only find her phone but the body of a murdered girl. The band is forced back into the room and is held at gunpoint. The situation progressively worsens as both the band and the skinheads outside attempt to deal with the quickly escalating situation.

Though not solely shot in the green room, the film feels claustrophobic, building on a tense and frantic tone that lingers throughout. Lowlight and slow pans truly give a haunting feel to the scenes that are accentuated by the set that is dark, gritty and covered in graffiti.

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The tense and confined tone is frequently disrupted by bursts of violence that are brutal and gratuitous. The gore in this film is fiercely realistic and not at all stylized. Characters are shot, mauled by dogs and sliced open with box cutters in sudden bursts that raise the stakes of the film and heighten the tension.

Despite the tension and the poignant eruptions of violence, Saulnier constructs a film that is beautiful in its humanity. The slow motion sequence of the audience as the band plays their set is both sincere and adds depth to a film that is chock-full of visceral violence. Similarly, one of the final scenes within the film is of a dying dog returning to his master, demonstrating the humanity and heart of the story just below its frantic surface.

Green Room demonstrates that not even large budgets or all-star casts can negate the sincerity and poignancy of Saulnier’s work. Green Room is a powerhouse of a film that elicits gasp sof disgust, heart clenching sighs and subtle laughs.

Next: Sir Patrick Stewart Looks Promising as Green Room's Villain

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