“Green Room” Movie Review


     Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier doesn’t necessarily break new ground with his new thriller “Green Room”, but he executes common tropes within the action suspense and horror genres very well.  The film follows a down and out touring punk rock band called “The Ain’t Rights”, who is made up of four characters you likely wouldn’t find yourself cheering for, but the alternative would have you putting yourself behind a group of militant neo-Nazi skinheads, so we’ll go ahead and take our chances with the young musicians.  Saulnier’s film is the kind where you exit the theater feeling dirty and almost vagrant like.  He sets a tone of dread and hopelessness that is never relented once.  You feel as though each and every character has avoided a shower for weeks, yet none of them will complain since their body odor is the least of their many worries.

     The opening scene is indicative of the plight these four rockers likely find themselves in regularly.  They awaken in their old rusted out van after having driven off the side of the road into a field.  No one seems to really care the driver, Reece (Joe Cole), had fallen asleep at the wheel and could have easily killed all of them.  Fact is, the other members, Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shaukat), and Tiger (Callum Turner), really have very little to live for with their latest gig paying them a whopping $6.87 each.  They know their earnings are just enough for a tank of gas and getting anywhere further will require siphoning from unsuspecting parked cars along the way.  In a state of desperation for anything positive, the group takes a gig somewhere in a rural forrest area outside of Portland, Oregon in which they are told they will be paid $350.  Of course, this is a no brainer for these down on their luck characters as they move on to the next stop on their tour.

     At this point, Saulnier has already made the audience feel uncomfortable with the introduction of the main players and their first concert where we see them performing for about a dozen people spewing out hateful and mostly unintelligible lyrics backed by instrument play that hardly qualifies as music.  And yet, they arrive at seemingly the perfect place to hone their craft.  A skinhead club in the middle of nowhere.  But hey, it pays and that’s all they care about at this point.  They are escorted to a staging area and told they would be on in 20 minutes.  When they get out on stage, they are met by a room full of hateful looking unsavory characters and decide to rile them up with a cover song that basically tells their audience what they can do with themselves in not so kind words.  Eventually, it seems they sway the crowd as the dance floor becomes a human game of bumper cars and this lively gang of white supremacists gyrate to the ghastly sounds of “The Ain’t Rights.”

     Of course, something terrible happens as they are being paid and ushered out the door.  One of them sees something he wasn’t supposed to see and the club manager, Gabe (Macon Blair) reacts by locking them back into the staging area and calling the club’s owner, Darcy, played by Patrick Stewart in what is an extremely out of character performance by his standards.  From there, Saulnier weaves an interesting set of circumstances in a sort of cat and mouse game between the highly resourceful group and the skinheads who seek to rid themselves of the problem created by the situation.  Saulnier seems to have taken cues from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn” with the creative use of weapons and tactics by the punk rockers as they adopt a never say die attitude in their battle against a well armed and vicious foe.

     Saulnier knows we’ve seen scenarios like this before, so he relies on creating tension, both between the group and Darcy, and within themselves since the proper solution never presents itself in the eyes of each person at the same time.  That tension is significantly raised in a number of scenes where their creativity continually fails them and they end up right back where they started in a lesser version of the staging area which absorbs plentiful damage during early skirmishes and isn’t the safe haven it once was early in the film.  This of course means those left will have to make a stand, but Saulnier ensures the tension remains throughout and employs several effective plot twists later on which help separate his film from the typical third acts we see in this genre.  All the more impressive is the consistency in tone achieved through the remote setting and the use of color to maintain a sense of uneasiness throughout.  Essentially, “Green Room” is one of those genre films where the filmmaker understood the need to create a unique atmosphere which is beyond the norm to stage the kind of action we are already familiar with.  Sure, there’s really no one worth rooting for here, but in the end, you’ll likely respect the main character’s ingenuity.  GRADE: B